Speedy Apple & Cinnamon Overnight Oats

I’m not sure if I’ve said this before but I love breakfast. Maybe it’s because I haven’t eaten for 8 hours but I always look forward to it. My only issue is that it’s easy for me to get stuck in a breakfast rut, which means I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting options to invigorate my breakfast routine.

The inspiration for this breakfast was actually born out of necessity when last year I was in need of a healthy, tasty breakfast that took little preparation in the morning and could be easily shoved in my bag as I raced out the door to work. This was when I was having a one hour commute to my office whilst first tending to my bright eyed little boy before I left the house. In between feeding and dressing him, showering and getting dressed myself (and therefore making sure he didn’t flush himself or my toiletries down the loo/slip and smash his head on the tiles) I had little time to make, let alone eat, breakfast.

The beauty of overnight oats is that you prepare everything the night before. This means there is zilch to do in the morning (other then remembering to add the nuts/seeds AND remembering take it with you…there were some bad mornings when I failed on this one).

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup oats.
  • 1/2 apple, grated.
  • 2 teaspoons of sunflower seeds.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
  • 2 teaspoons of chia seeds.
  • 2 teaspoons of goji berries or raisins.
  • 8 almonds.
  • 2/3 cup almond milk (or whichever type of milk you prefer), basically double the amount to oats used.
  • 1 teaspoon of maple syrup.

How:

  1. Add the oats, chia seeds, goji berries/raisins and cinnamon to the container you intend to eat this from (I use a mason jar, it must have a tight lid). Make sure all the ingredients are nicely mixed together.
  2. Grate the apple and add to the dry mix.
  3. Pour in your milk and maple syrup and stir well.
  4. You have  two options with the almonds and sunflower seeds: 1) Put them in a separate, small container, cover with water and a pinch of salt and cover. Leave overnight on your kitchen counter. The next morning rinse them well and add to your oat mix (I’ll explain why below). 2) If you can’t be pfaffed with soaking then simply add the raw almonds and sunflower seeds to your oat mix the next morning before eating.
  5. You may want to add a dash more of your chosen milk the next morning if it’s too stodgy when you add the nuts and seeds.

Serves 1.

Why All This Soaking?

  • Nuts and seeds contain a powerhouse of different nutrients BUT their outer husk also contains elements that make them difficult to digest.
  • They contain natural toxins and anti-nutrients such as phytates, tannins and goitrogens. These can inhibit the absorption of nutrients such as iodine, zinc and iron. However soaking helps to neutralise the levels of these anti-nutrients.
  • Nuts and seeds contain naturally occurring enzyme inhibitors that can contribute to digestive upset. Soaking helps to reduce these inhibitors.
  • Soaking also helps to increase the nutrients available in the nuts and seeds themselves.
  • Oats also benefit from a good soaking. It helps to reduce phytates (which are also present in grains) and helps to breakdown their starches, which improves their digestibility. It increases levels of resistant starch, which is considered a type of fibre since it resists digestion and passes to the large intestine. In turn it has been shown to help manage blood sugar levels, act as an aid for weight management and also work as a ‘prebiotic fibre’ helping to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon.

So for those of you who are on a tight morning schedule or who can’t be bothered to deal with preparing breakfast in the morning, this is perfect. With its healthy mix of nutritious ingredients it will help you reclaim your morning, no matter how chaotically it starts.

 

Are you attempting a healthy-ish Christmas?

 

If you’re planning to try to keep a little healthy over this festive period then I thought I’d help you out. This particular time of year is classically thought to be the most glutinous. Filled with booze, food, late nights, stressful shopping expeditions and not much exercise. You can end up feeling blob-like and gross. Hence the annual detox that inevitable follows in January.

I have a few ideas to help you navigate this time to hopefully help you feel less like Jabba the Hutt and more like a normal and healthy version of you.

I’ve divided my advice into two sections:

1) Tips and guidelines to keep you healthy.

2) Some supportive ideas to ease you through the aftermath of too much food or alcohol.

1) Tips and guidelines to keep you healthy. Here are a number of things you can do during this time that are easy, need little planning or preparation, and will make you feel good.

  • Eat a decent, low sugar breakfast. A simple but very effective way to help you feel and look better throughout this time. By making sure that your blood sugar levels start off on an even keel will help you to keep on track during the rest of the day. Even if you’re staying with relatives/friends over Christmas, this is a meal you can usually make pretty healthy. Either go for eggs on wholegrain or rye toast (bring your own if need be). Add on some avocado if there is any. If you don’t have any eggs, then add some cheese, smoked salmon or almond butter (again bring your own nut/seed butter). Avoid cereals, granola (unless its a healthy, low sugar one) and pastries. Don’t be afraid to make leftovers your breakfast, you can put together and very nice veg omelette.
  • Carry healthy snacks. If you don’t you’ll most likely go for the high fat and sugar Christmas biscuits lying around or being offered up everywhere, chocolates on shop countertops or mince pies. Carry simple snacks that contain protein or healthy fats, nuts are perfect (almonds, macadamias, Brazils).
  • Drink water and herbal teas. Important all year round but can easily be replaced my mulled wine and sherry during Christmas. So much so you end up feeling like a shrivelled old crone. If you’re at home fill a 1 litre bottle/jug with water. Add some fresh lemon juice to make it more interesting. Drink and repeat. If you’re out and about carry water with you. Take herbal teas with you if you’ve staying with family over Christmas so you can add in a nice detox tea every morning. I always take some Pukka Detox or Cleanse.
  • Be mindful of your eating. What I mean here is be conscious of what you’re eating. If you don’t want Christmas to be a massive food and drink binge then think about how you want to manage things over this time. Select a few key days/events where you don’t want to worry about eating healthy and enjoy the good food and wine on offer. During the other times actively avoid  the high sugar/bad fat foods/alcohol on offer. I have an 80:20 approach, 80% of the time I follow my guidelines to eating  healthily, 20% I eat whatever I fancy.
  • Try to load up on unprocessed foods that are high in protein (meat, fish, eggs), natural fats (nuts, seeds, avocado) and lots of vegetables. Whether you’re perusing a buffet, at a drinks party or your work Christmas lunch you’ll usually be able to find meat, fish, nuts, olives and lots of vegetables.

2) Some supportive ideas to ease you through the aftermath of too much food or alcohol.

  • If you’ve eaten and/or drunk too much and feel ill try taking nux vomica. A homeopathic remedy that has worked for me and all my close family. It’s so good I even wrote about it here.
  • Make sure you drink water before going to bed if you’ve drunk too much alcohol. Obvious but often forgotten.
  • Hungover? Here are a few things that you can do. Eat a good breakfast, try my ‘Easy Hangover Breakfast‘. Take some useful supplements that help the body deal with the flood of booze you have subjected it too. Both the Emergen-C vitamin C sachets and milk thistle have helped out a lot of people, find out more here in my post all about hangover interventions.

I hope these nuggets help you out over this time so you can make this Christmas both a happy and healthy one.

Here’s wishing you a healthy start to December!

1 stew, 3 meals.

The weather’s got cold and damp. Our house is really cold. I need warming, comfort food so I’ve decided it’s time to break out a good stew. The great thing about stews are that you can make a bucket load, use up lots of lovely veg that you don’t know what to do with. You can also chuck in immune boosting spices to up the nutritional value as well as the taste levels.

With health, taste and practicality in mind I’ve decided to not only give you a good stew but also show you how to create 3 different meals with it.

Ingredients for basic stew

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • 1 medium onion, diced.
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced.
  • 1 stick of celery, diced.
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced.
  • 1 courgette, diced.
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.
  • 500g passata.
  • 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes.
  • 2 x 400g tin of chickpeas.
  • 6 organic, unsulphured apricots, chopped.
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin.
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric.
  • 500 ml vegetable stock.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

These are the vegetables I had to hand, you can use others such as sweet potato, turnips or cauliflower. All the ingredients I use are organic.

How

  • Heat the oil over a medium heat in a large, heavy bottom saucepan with a lid, I use my trustee Le Creuset.
  • Add the onion and cook until transparent. Then add the carrots, squash and celery. Cook for around 10 minutes stiring regularly.
  • Add the garlic and spices, mix well with the vegetables and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  • Add the passata, tinned tomatoes and vegetable stock. Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes with the lid on.
  • Add the courgette, chickpeas and apricots. Season with salt and pepper and cook (with the lid on) for another 30-45 minutes until all the vegetables are tender. Yep you’re looking at about 1 1/2 hours of cooking time.

A quick lowdown of the nutrients here….

  • The squash and carrots contain beta-carotene, a fabulous nutrient that does many good things for our health one of which is to be a good friend to our immune system. Exactly what I need during this time of year.
  • Other immune-supportive nutrients are found in the garlic, turmeric (which has amazing anti-inflammatory benefits) and cinnamon.
  • There’s a good range of fibre too, great for the digestion, keeping energy levels stable and helping to get nasty toxins from the body.
  • The range of fresh, organic vegetables here also means there’s an abundance of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Nutrients we need to survive and thrive during these cold months.

Meal 1 (serves 2 adults):

DSC_0010

  • 3 ladlefuls (1 1/2 cups of a standard mug) of stew.
  • Approximately 100g dry weight of rice (basmati, brown).
  • 2 handfuls of broccoli.
  1. Cook the rice as per the instructions on the packet.
  2. Steam the broccoli.
  3. Heat up the stew or if you are making it from scratch for the meal it will already be hot.
  4. Divide between two plates and serve.

This meal is a bit more of a carb bomb, what with the starchy vegetables (squash, carrots) and the rice it’s for those either wanting to recharge after a workout or those needing a denser meal. Lose the rice and add more green veg (spinach, kale, cabbage) if you’re looking to lose weight or have issues with your blood sugar levels.

Meal 2 (serves 1 adult):

DSC_0022

  • 3/4 cup of stew (of standard mug).
  • 2 handfuls of spinach.
  • 1/4 of an avocado.
  • Parmesan cheese, grated.
  1. Heat up the stew.
  2. Steam the spinach.
  3. To serve add the stew and spinach to a bowl. Top the spinach with the avocado and sprinkle the Parmesan on the stew.

The addition of the avocado and cheese will make this version a more blood sugar balancing friendly one. The added fat and protein will help to keep energy levels stable. This is a great option for those wanting to keep things trim before Christmas hits!

Meal 3 (serves 1…though you’ll have enough stew for 2):

DSC_0033

  • 3/4 cup of stew.
  • 2 eggs.
  • 1 large handful of watercress.
  • 1/2 lemon.
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
  1. Heat the stew up in a frying pan. Make two shallow wells, then crack one egg into each well. Cover and simmer until the eggs are cooked (to your preference, I like a runny yoke) and the stew is hot. Slide the contents into a bowl.
  2. Chuck the watercress into a separate bowl and drizzle with the lemon juice and olive oil.

The eggs really boost the protein levels here so this is a good one for keeping lean and full of energy. The greens also inject important antioxidants and immune boosting nutrients, essential for this time of year.

 

It’s very likely you’re going to have some stew left over and I would highly recommend you freeze it. If you try for a 4th meal you may get rather sick of it.

I hope you enjoy this simple, versatile and nutritious concoction of mine.

 

 

Do your kids refuse to eat vegetables?

My boy is not a fan of vegetables. To be fair he’ll happily gnaw on cucumber or carrot sticks but when it comes to all other varieties, he flat out refuses. Since he’s only 18 months old and not at the stage where I can negotiate/bribe him to eat these extremely nourishing foods, I’ve come up with a few solutions I thought I’d share. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone on this this boat. While I developed these for my little boy they are equally good for bigger veg haters.

I’ve developed two sauces, an orange and a green one. Both are packed with vegetables and can easily be mixed in with pasta, rice or even to eggs when scrambling. I’ve chosen to cook the sauces in different ways to maximise their nutrient content (I’ll explain all below).

The Orange One

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, quartered.
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced.
  • 4 organic tomatoes, quartered (I used yellow ones but the normal red ones are fine).
  • 1/2 organic squash, peeled and diced.
  • 2 small organic carrots, peeled and quartered.
  • 1 cup of organic, reduced salt vegetable bouillon or homemade chicken stock.
  • Fresh herbs such as basil or parsley, optional.
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil.

How

  1. Wash and chop the vegetables and chuck into a big bowl.
  2. Add the oil and herbs (if using) and thoroughly mix.
  3. Roast in a preheated oven, 180c/350f/gas mark 4, for 30-45 minutes. Take out half way through cooking and mix up the vegetables so all sides get nicely roasted. The vegetables should be tender and the squash slightly gooey.
  4. Put the stock and roasted vegetables into a blender and blend until you get a nice smooth sauce. Alternatively you can put it all in a bowl and use a hand blender.
  5. Store in a glass jar in the fridge.

Benefits

  • High in fibre. All this lovely fibre is very good for the digestive system as it helps to keep it running smoothly. It adds bulk and softness to the stools and (if they’re drinking enough water) helps to prevent constipation. The long-term benefit of eating lots of fibre is a reduced risk of many diseases including diabetes, certain cancers and heart disease (helps to lower LDL, bad cholesterol).
  • It’s got a fantastic range of antioxidants that help to protect the cells in the body from damage, reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and a myriad of other health conditions. This sauce is especially high in beta-carotene, which makes up the red-orange pigment in plants. As well as being an antioxidant it can also be metabolised to vitamin A in our body. This means it’s a double-whammy heath wise. As an antioxidant it does all of the good stuff I mention above but when converted to vitamin A it helps with our vision, reproductive organs, immune system and skin. Importantly absorption of beta-carotene is increased when we eat it with fat. So roasting all these beta-carotene rich foods with olive oil will enhance the availability of the nutrients within the food.
  • Vitamin A, C, magnesium and folic acid are just a few of the vitamins and minerals present in this sauce, which means eating it is an easy way to boost health and prevent nutrient deficiency.
  • Another great thing with this sauce is that it can also be made into a warming vegetable soup. Simply add more stock, herbs and spices and you have a very tasty and nutritious lunch for yourself as well!

 

The Green One

Ingredients

  • 5 organic broccoli florets, halved.
  • 1 1/2 handfuls of chopped organic kale.
  • 1/2 organic courgette.
  • 2 organic spring onions.
  • 1 cup of organic, reduced salt vegetable bouillon or homemade chicken stock.
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  • Cheese, cheddar/parmesan added to the sauce before serving.

How

  • Wash and chop the vegetables. Start by steaming the broccoli, this should take around 10 minutes.
  • Add the kale, courgette and spring onions to the steamer, after the broccoli has been cooking for 5 minutes.
  • You’ll know the vegetables are done when they are tender, not squashy.
  • Put the veg into a blender and add the stock. Blend until smooth and then stir in the olive oil.
  • Add around 1 tablespoon of cheese to the sauce before serving. It needs to melt so chuck it in when you’re warming up the sauce, this helps make the texture more creamy.

Benefits

  • Fibre. I won’t repeat myself here as its the same general benefits I mention above. But steaming the broccoli is better for the fibre components and helps them to aid the removal of cholesterol from the gut more effectively.
  • Broccoli contains a range of phytonutrients that are good for helping detoxification, which helps to eliminate any nasty chemicals or toxins your little one may have inadvertently come into contact with.
  • The abundance of antioxidants (from flavonoids to carotenoids) in these greens help to reduce inflammation, reduce the risk of developing certain cancers and support the cardiovascular system. Important when thinking about the future health of any little or big person.
  • An impressive range of vitamins and minerals, from vitamin A, C, K and the B vitamins to potassium and manganese. This sauce helps to restore any micronutrient deficiencies your little one may potentially have if they’re not digging into their veggies.

I have to be honest my boy does prefer the orange one as it’s sweeter. If you’re child is not interested in the green then you can always add some of its ingredients (courgette, kale) into the orange one and they will (probably) never know.

As you can see from the photos below I added both sauces to one meal, the orange one mixed into pasta and the green into eggs. While it may not look super appetising my boy ate the whole lot!

Food Eating

Want to be more healthy? Eat more fat!

Yes that’s right. I want you to eat more fat. I’ve found most people don’t eat enough (of the right kind). Moreover they still think that eating (any) fat will make them fat. It doesn’t. The opposite is actually true. Eating fat (the right kind and right amount) actually helps with weight loss, keeps your appetite at bay and reduces sugar cravings (and it’s this evil white stuff that is the main culprit to gaining weight).

Natural fats are critical for our health, they help us think to better, look better and feel happier (since they make up the structure of the brain and are involved in the function), reduce inflammation in the body (anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats…arthritis sufferers take note), improve the appearance of skin and help to boost, balance and stabilise your energy levels (stop those wobbly low blood sugar moments). They’re also a fantastic source of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E, which are vital for our immune system, bone health and in preventing degenerative disease (diabetes, cancer and heart disease).

All this means eating good fats will help you to look and feel great and WILL NOT MAKE YOU FAT!  So please do not be scared. Embrace the fat. As you can see I have a whole drawer in my kitchen dedicated to it.

I make sure I add at least two kinds of healthy fats into each meal, as well as take a supplement daily. Here are my favourites and how I use them:

Foods

  • Coconut oil – cooking, baking. I lightly fry vegetables using it instead of olive oil.
  • Coconut – dessicated and flakes. I add this to smoothies, porridge, baking, my brownies.
  • Olive oil – in my salad dressings, dips, drizzle over cooked foods.
  • Organic butter – cooking and baking.
  • Seeds – chia, flax, hemp, sunflower, pumpkin. I use these in smoothies, porridge, baking, snacks, seed butters, sprinkle over salads and over cooked foods whenever I need an extra does of fat. I use liberal amounts of both seeds and nuts in my granola recipe (actually it’s Seb’s).
  • Nuts – Almonds, macadamias, Brazil, walnuts, hazelnuts. Same as seed use.
  • Avocado – where to start, on everything, spread on toast, chopped into salads, chucked onto most meals hot or cold, added to smoothies, even desserts! I eat around ½ a day.
  • Oily fish – Salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies. I always have tinned sardines and anchovies they can easily be added to lunch. Anchovies added to a tomato sauce can make it smokey and delicious as well as healthier. I prefer to eat these smaller fish as they are lower down on the food chain and will tend to have lower levels of heavy metals and toxins then the larger fish.

Supplement

A few months ago I started with a new fat supplement of fermented cod liver oil. This stuff is brimming with not only omega 3 but also natural forms of vitamins A and D.

Why fermented? This process occurs at a cool temperature which allows for the effective extraction of the vitamins and fat (which can easily be damaged at a higher temperature). It also makes the nutrients more absorbable once in the the body.

I get the Green Pasture Fermented Cod Liver Oil Capsules, here.

So there you have it. Eat fat, be healthier and live longer.

Mini Morning Detox

My mornings are a little different now, while I used to wake at 8:00am after a full 8-9 hours of sleep, refreshed and energised I am now woken by my little squidge Finley gurgling, chatting, pounding his legs on the mattress demanding a feed anytime from 5:30-7:00am. Refreshed and energised I am not, bleary eyed and exhausted, I am, but also happy and so excited to see my boy, especially when he beams at me from his cot.

Since I’m ‘up with the Lark’ my mornings are long, so I have decided to start them a little differently. I’ve basically incorporated a mini-detox into my morning routine, this wasn’t really intentional but more as a reaction to feeling so dehydrated (I’m breastfeeding and for some reason do not drink any water at night) and tired. I needed to find something in the morning to make me feel revitalised…and I have found a winning combination. Many of you may actually be doing a ‘proper’ detox program or have finished off from the no sugar,/no booze craze that is now January. My mini detoxy things can be incorporated into a traditional detox or for those just trying to be a little healthier these are also very useful additions. You can mix and match them (you definitely don’t have to do all three). You could also have these throughout the day not just in the morning.

Step 1: Raw organic apple cider vinegar and fresh ginger drink

I have already extolled the merits of raw organic apple cider vinegar (My Top 5 Store Cupboard Essentials) but I had pretty much stopped using it. Now it’s back in my routine with a bang. Every morning the kettle goes on, the ginger and cider vinegar go into my big mug and the hot water follows. I realise this drink may sound pretty odd to some but I find it amazingly refreshing and I really enjoy it. If you find the quantity of vinegar I use is too much you can start with a smaller amount and work your way up. Give it a go, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Ingredients:

  • 1 chunk of fresh root ginger (2 inches), peeled and chopped.
  • 1 tablespoon of raw organic apple cider vinegar (increase or decrease this amount depending on your preference).
  • Approximately 450 ml of boiling water (I like to make a big mug, again you can vary this amount).

Bung all of this into a mug (I also add a little cool water so I can start drinking it straight away).

Here’s why:

Raw organic apple cider vinegar

  • Rich in vitamins A and E and minerals potassium, magnesium, iron, and calcium.
  • Beneficial for your digestion and helps to prevent indigestion.
  • Energising, contains a range of amino acids and B vitamins that support your energy production systems.
  • Has alkalising properties, which help to maintain proper pH levels in the body (a diet high in coffee, alcohol and sugar creates more of an acid, disease forming environment).
  • Helps to regular blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol.
  • Contains malice acid which has anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.
  • Helps to break down fats so your body can use them rather then store them making it useful for weight loss.

Fresh root ginger

  • Great for the digestion, has carminative properties which means it helps to get rid of intestinal gas. It also helps to relax and sooth the digestive tract. Combine this with the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well as helping to reduce nausea and you’ve got an amazing digestive aid. I think anyone suffering from digestive complaints (and those not) can benefit from adding more ginger into their lives.
  • It contains powerful anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, these have been shown to work wonders for people with osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis (when consumed regularly).
  • Immune boosting, yep this warming root has both antiviral and antibacterial properties.

 

Step 2: Green/Superfood drink

For me this means ProGreens by Nutricology, which is a blend of different green grasses, sea vegetables, algae, adaptogenic herbs, probiotics, antioxidants, fibres as well as a few more superfoods thrown in for good measure.

Blimey, where to start with the benefits of this concoction! Here goes…

  • Cleansing, supports your major organs of detoxification (liver, kidneys, gut).
  • Immune strengthening.
  • Energising.
  • Great for clearing the skin and helping it to look bright and radiant.
  • Alkalising (which helps to restore the balance of acidity and alkalinity in the body – often it can be too acid which is linked to a variety of different ailments and poor diet choices).
  • Supports digestion and helps to improve regularity of bowel movements.
  • Helps to reduce inflammation in the body.

….and many many more good things. It’s quite pricey so if you’re on a budget you can skip this part of the process but I do notice a difference to my general health and appearance when I have been taking it for a few weeks.

 

Step 3: Green or White Tea

I either make myself a big mug of this or a pot (depending on whether I’m going to work or staying at home) and usually chuck in a chunk of ginger.

  • Both teas have high levels of antioxidants (catechins) shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease and diabetes….another bonus is they are great for the skin.
  • They contain caffeine (though white tea has less) so will give you a bit of a buzz, this is why I don’t drink it after 5:00pm.
  • These have a cleansing effect as the antioxidants support liver function.
  • These antioxidants are also great for the immune system.

 

 

If you do all this you’ll feel hydrated (you’ll be popping to the loo on a very regular basis, there’s a lot of liquid here!) and on the road to cleansedom. As I mentioned at the beginning don’t feel you need to do all three steps, even if you can get in just one of these in the morning it will help to make you feel a little more spritely and cleansed.

Adrian’s Flu Tea

DSC_0045

I had it all planned out. My next post was written extolling the benefits of a new found tea bursting with immune fortifying nutrients, a tea I had been drinking daily which was helping me to stay fit and healthy over Winter. Oh what a good and healthy nutritionist I was…. Then I got a cold and a cough. My health and vitality took a sudden nosedive. It started when my dear little boy of 8 months got a cold, which I then caught. While he seemed to deal with it relatively well, sweetly snuffling his way through it, it utterly floored me. This was the first time I had got ill with my little boy and it wasn’t easy. Looking after a little one while having a streaming cold and hacking cough (which woke him and my husband up at night) meant very little sleep for everyone. We had a dark few days…

 

I’m now fully mended and this was in part due to another tea lovingly made for me by my darling husband, hence the name of this post.

 

It’s a warming blend of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom and black peppercorns….  A concoction of spices that have been used in both Traditional Chinese and Ayuvedic medicine to help with colds and the flu.

This not only tastes good, but also leaves you feeling pepped up yet comforted at the same time. It quietly gets to work on grappling with the flu-causing bugs, it helps to clear mucus and literally warms you from within. If that weren’t enough, these ingredients are also beneficial for the digestive system and support joint health (so good for arthritis suffers).

 

 

 

Here’s why:

 

Cinnamon  – This has amazing warming qualities and has long been used in Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine as a remedy for dealing with coughs, colds and sore throats. It has antiviral and antibacterial qualities and it’s volatile oils help clear up congestion and break up mucus.

 

Root Ginger – I love this stuff, tasty and very good for you, what a perfect combination. Like cinnamon it has warming qualities especially for the upper respiratory tract making it perfect for helping with colds, chesty coughs and sore throats. It also has excellent anti-inflammatory benefits, which work for us when we’re down with the flu but are also great for those suffering from rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. My use of ginger is not just limited to this tea. I add it to most of my herbal teas during the Winter months.

 

Black peppercorns – Warming and stimulating, pepper contains a range of immune supportive nutrients from zinc to vitamin C. It also has anti-microbial properties that help to kill cold causing germs. Because pepper makes you sweat it helps to stimulate our natural defence mechanisms as well as helping to stimulate the flow of mucus reducing congestion in the lungs and sinuses.

 

Cloves – Contain a mild anaesthetic as well as an anti-bacterial agent, perfect for helping to sooth sore throats. Eugenol, the primary component of clove’s volatile oils, functions as an anti-inflammatory substance. In additional clove contains a variety of flavonoids, which also contribute to its anti-inflammatory (and antioxidant) properties. Lastly they are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin K, and vitamin C.

 

Fennel Seeds – Rich in flavonoid antioxidants they protect against free radical damage, they have anti-inflammatory properties to reduce pain, another ingredient here that is good for arthritis sufferers. Fennel seeds contain a bevy of nutrients that support immune health, from the minerals calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and copper to vitamins A, C and several of the B vitamins. Lastly the fibre and essential oils are great for the digestion and help with the formation of bile, ease muscle spasms, reduce inflammation and gas.

 

It’s also very very easy to make:

 

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 black pepper corns
  • 4 inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 5 cloves
  • 2 tablespoons of fennel seeds

 

Stick all of these into a medium-sized pan of cold water, place on the hob and bring to the boil then simmer for a minimum of 15 minutes. We tend to start a batch up in the morning and then keep it going for the whole day just adding more water and re-heating as necessary.

 

 

Thank you my beloved.

Healthy Chocolate Brownie

Finished brownie

If you like chocolate, biscuit, brownie, nutty-type things this is for you. If you want to eat the most delicious chewy, chocolaty dreamy biscuit that is also healthy, this is most definitely for you. AND if you’re following the Paleo diet this is also for you.

 

I have found the ultimate healthy chocolate brownie recipe and it’s AMAZING. Please make them, these gluten-free, dairy-free delicious chunks of chocolatey delight will make you and those around you (if you choose to share them) happy.

 

It all started last week when we had friends over for dinner who are following the Paleo diet (for those unfamiliar with this it is a diet based on the way our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate, which cuts out all grains, potatoes, dairy, refined sugar, legumes and any processed foods – you can find out more about the Paleo diet here). I saw this as a perfect opportunity for some adventures in Paleo cooking and found some real gems of recipes that are tasty, healthy and fit the Paleo guidelines. But it was these chocolate and nut biscuits that were my pièce de résistance. They taste like they shouldn’t be good for you, they taste like they’re filled with butter, sugar and flour, but they’re not! They made my Paleo-following friends extremely happy

 

Enough of my raptures about this dessert, let’s get to it. On perusing the ingredients you may well be thinking “they can’t have eaten cacao powder in the Paleolithic era”, you are probably right but in some interpretations of the diet things like cacao and dark chocolate are allowed.

 

Here we go……

Ingredients:

 

▪   1 cup ground almonds

▪   1/2 cup desiccated coconut

▪   1/4 cup raw cacao powder or coco powder (unsweetened)

▪   1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

▪   1/4 teaspoon sea salt

▪   1/2 cup maple syrup

▪   1/2 cup unsalted pistachios

▪   1/4 cup dark chocolate (90% coco solids) cut into chunks

 These are all based on the standard American cup size.

 

 

How:

 

1. Preheat oven to 180C/gas mark 4/350F.

2. Get out your food processor and add the ground almonds, desiccated coconut, raw cacao or coco powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and pulse until all ingredients are nicely blended together.

3. Slowly pour in the maple syrup and pulse until you get a soggy dough.

4. Scrape out onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and mix in the pistachios and chocolate chunks.

5. Shape into a log-like shape (as you can see mine started off good but ended up looking like a cow pat!).

6. Pop in the oven and bake for 23-25 minutes, until the outside is cracking but still feels quite soft to the touch. Transfer to a cooling rack (with baking paper still intact). Cool, peel off the baking paper and cut into chunks.

 

Why so healthy?

 

  • Nuts – Almonds are packed with minerals (manganese and magnesium, which are important for energy production in the body) and vitamin E (contains antioxidants that are great for heart and skin health). Almonds also contain heart healthy monounsaturated fats, these fats have been shown to reduce bad cholesterol and the risk of heart disease (also helped by their vitamin E content). Due to the fat, protein and antioxidants in these nuts they also protect against diabetes (prevent surges in blood sugar levels). Pistachio’s share many of these health benefits (prevent cardiovascular and diabetic conditions), they contain vitamin E and A antioxidants, which are good for the immune system, skin and also reduce inflammation in the body.
  • Coconut – Contains a special type of fat (medium-chain triglycerides), which is absorbed by the liver rather then stored in fat cells meaning they give us energy and actually help boost the metabolism helping to burn more calories and aid in weight loss. Coconut contains a good amount of fibre, the oil in coconuts also has antibacterial and antifungal properties.
  • Raw Cacao/dark chocolate – High in a range of antioxidants, iron, fibre, zinc and magnesium. This plethora of nutrients mean cacao is heart protective, anti-ageing, energy boosting, while at the same time helps to relax the nerves (due to the magnesium), what a force of nature!

 

Who’d have thought that eating something that tastes remarkably like a chocolate brownie could help you lose weight, protect your heart and boost your energy levels. Wonders never cease!

 

 

 

I’m Back…with a baby!

Me and Finn blog 2

 

Let me firstly apologise profusely for 5 1/2 months of silence from The Nutrition Diaries, I had a baby. Yes my little (now quite robust) boy, Finley Leo Salt Rainbow was born on Friday 26th April and has since filled my life with wonder and joy (and a bit of crying, sleep deprivation and poo). This has so far left little room in my day for anything other then getting dressed, brushing my teeth and eating (and not all of these got done every day!).

I now plan to get back to it, back to writing some posts and sharing my healthy and nutritious thoughts with you. Bear with me, they may not come steadily every week but I will do my best to try.

I will be honest my diet has not been optimal these past few months, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag, some of the early days saw lots of bread, cheese and muesli, while other days have been filled with fresh veg, salmon and quinoa (this tended to coincided with various family members visiting).

I am now meandering my way back to a more nutritious way of eating, which I will tell you about as time goes on. I’ve certainly not been over ambitious with this but have taken a somewhat gentle approach, starting with small changes, be it swapping cow’s milk for almond milk, finding new quick and easy lunches (pushing out those cheese sandwiches that were creeping in) or experimenting with healthier desserts.

It will be of no surprise to any of you that I will be including posts about post pregnancy and small person nutrition but I am also still interested in exploring and writing about a wide range of nutritional subjects.

It’s very good to be back and get my baby-sozzled brain working again.

 

 

 

 

Nutrition Boosters

Nutrition Boosters 2

In my quest to make my body healthier in a quick and easy fashion I recently delved into the ‘superfood’ aisle of one of my favourite health food shops in London (Revital). Many people rubbish superfoods as a marketing ploy and yes if you do think they’re some sort of magic food that will cure all your health woes and make you look 10 years younger in a week then you’ll be sorely disappointed. But if you accept that they’re a natural food jam packed with an assortment of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre, protein and healthy fats) that play important roles in helping your body to be a healthier one then you’ll be a satisfied customer. In my mind they’re the quintessential nutrition booster, adding them to a meal or snack will immediately increase the nutritional value of each bite.

 

So I brought a variety of different super dupa seeds and dried berries and once home bunged them all into a nice glass jar, which is now sitting in my cupboard (always make sure you store seeds and nuts in a cool dark place since sunlight will damage them). They’re my first port of call when putting together my breakfast be it muesli (I sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon over my normal muesli combination), porridge (again 1/2 tablespoon), a snack of natural yoghurt and fresh fruit (1-2 teaspoons) or to a smoothie (up to 1 tablespoon). I wouldn’t recommend eating this straight from the jar, not unless you want a rather dry, grainy, slightly sour experience.

 

If you want to double boost things here you could also soak this mixture (anything from 12-24 hrs before eating), which helps to reduce their physic acid content, this is naturally present in nuts and seeds (and grains) and is a bit of a ‘baddie’ as it binds to minerals such as calcium, iron and zinc in our gut preventing us from absorbing them. So soak away and make this an even better booster.

If you read my post, A Bright Idea on Tuesday you’ll see a theme emerging, this is basically a suped up version, higher in immune boosting antioxidants and super seeds getting my body ready for Winter.

 

 

 

 

Nutrition Booster Ingredients

 

  • Aronia Berries – Contain a blend of polyphenolic antioxidants, specifically high levels of a disease-fighting class called anthocyanins. In fact their antioxidant strength, the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity), has been one of the highest yet recorded! Very important for dealing with pesky free radicals that can do so much harm in the body contributing to disease (cancer, heart disease) and other things like wrinkly skin.
  • Goji Berries – Another good source of antioxidants as well as vitamin A.
  • Mulberries – Another berry packed with those anythocyanin antioxidants. They’ve good for the immune system, the skin and are a great source of vitamin C ( another immune booster), vitamin K, fibre and iron.
  • Chia Seeds – A good source of anti-inflammatory omega 3 and 6 fats, plant-based protein, antioxidants and a fantastic source of fibre (really helps with constipation and improving regularity of bowel movements – in these ways great for getting rid of toxins in the body).
  • Flax/Linseeds – High in B vitamins, magnesium and manganese (good for helping to deal with stress and improve energy levels), rich in omega 3 fats (helps with the skin and reducing inflammation in the body), another good source of soluble and insoluble fibre (helps to lower cholesterol, stabilise blood sugar levels and good for the bowels), contain important phytochemical’s, such as lignans, which when converted in our gut help to balance female hormones (can be helpful for fertility and dealing with peri-menopausal symptoms).
  • Hemp Hearts (hulled hemp seeds) – A good source of protein, healthy fats (contained a balanced ratio of omega 3 and 6) and fibre, vitamin E and trace minerals.

NB: Make sure you drink lots of water (2-2.5 litres a day) when consuming chia and flax seeds, they absorb water when travelling through the gut  and this helps form the all important soluble fibre.

 

Here is my nutrition booster in action in my morning porridge (I’ve added some walnuts as well) and an evening snack of apple and natural yoghurt (with a nice cup of camomile tea).