Spring Health

Spring Health

March 2022

The following article is for information only and is no substitute for medical advice or your own research. Please be mindful of your needs and seek appropriate professional support as necessary.

There’s something refreshingly optimistic about spring. Not just in the budding natural world I observe beyond my windows, but in my heart and mind too. All of the silent work of winter starts to reveal itself and the air is filled with possibility. It’s exciting and energising and I find that it often filters down into my everyday habits too.

New season produce, longer daylight hours and hopefully a few gaps in the weather allow me to get outdoors and move a bit. It certainly feels easier to take good care of myself in spring than it does during the winter months. These little acts of self-kindness always serve to lighten my mood.

But there can, of course, still be challenges for our health and motivation at any time of year. So it’s just as important to know when to ease off and rest, as it is to know when to strive. I think that is probably something that is true for most aspects of life.

Preparing to eat well

Over the years, I have found a few ways to make life that little bit easier when it comes to regularly enjoying home-cooked food, especially when circumstances might make it harder to find the time or energy to go shopping or get creative in the kitchen.

A spring clean

It can be really worthwhile getting right into the back of your kitchen cupboards and giving them a good spring clean and tidy up. I find it a pretty satisfying task (yes I am Monica from Friends!) but it helps us to see what we have, what needs using up and what we might need to buy.

Keeping a few basic ingredients to hand in the kitchen also makes throwing a quick meal together much easier.

Here are some of the key staples I like to keep stocked at home:

Store-cupboard: Olive oil, tahini, nuts & seeds / nut butters, vinegar, mustard, pesto, pasta, brown rice, oats, tinned / jarred fish, tinned / jarred / dried beans, chopped tomatoes, flour, honey / maple syrup, spices, tea / coffee, salt & pepper.

 Freezer: Bread (sliced), berries, peas, green beans, broad beans, stock, overripe & peeled bananas and chopped herbs, onions, garlic and ginger.

 Fridge: Eggs (I don’t actually keep them in the fridge though), fruit, veg, feta, yoghurt of choice, milk of choice.

Batch cooking

There are two main ways to batch cook. The first is to allocate a few hours on a single day and make multiple big batches of food at once. Or alternatively, make double / triple portions of meals as you go and just store the leftovers to use for the next couple of days.

Recently, I have been using the former. I write a list of recipes, buy the ingredients I need and prioritise a couple of hours of kitchen time when I can (which is not always by any stretch). I do, however, like the feeling of knowing I have a selection of home-made ready meals for days when I am going to be busy, or don’t feel like cooking.  And I love the feeling of pulling out a fully prepared dish and knowing I only have to find the energy to heat it thoroughly before serving.

Check out a selection of free, nourishing batch-cooking recipes here.

Store-bought options

We don’t always have to cook from scratch to eat well. There are plenty of great tasting and nutritious store-bought options now available. Vegetable soups, hummus, rotisserie chickens, prepared salads, prepared vegetables, fish dishes and cooked grain pouches have often made their way into my shopping basket when I’m particularly busy. It’s not about always being perfect. Pragmatism is important too.

Supporting relaxation

The world has felt like a confusing, daunting and often overwhelming place for a long while now. For many of us, this has contributed to an underlying level of worry and stress that feels like it sits deeper than the usual ups and downs of everyday life. And that can lead to anxiety, trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating and a general sense of constantly being unsettled, as well as various possible physical symptoms and signs.

While what one person perceives as challenging or stressful may not cause the same worries in another, and we all have our own ways of unwinding, I thought I’d share a few of the self-care strategies that I have been using recently to help support my own rest and relaxation.

Perhaps you might find an idea you resonate with, or perhaps not. But if I do these few things relatively consistently, I find they make a noticeable difference. And after the year that has recently past, I think we all deserve to take the time to prioritise a little relaxation and rejuvenation.

Regular movement

I am not a huge fan of the gym, but I do love yoga and getting out for a walk or gentle jog in nature. In fact, the more worried I feel, the more I need to move and get outside. It’s an association that I have noticed more and more over the last few years and is the thing that seems to make the biggest difference to me.

I aim for at least 20 minutes a day of moderate exercise.  Sometimes I do more, sometimes less, but it is a realistic target to aim for at this moment in time. I particularly like online yoga classes (on Movement for Modern Life or YouTube) if I don’t have time to get out.

Watching caffeine intake

Excessive intake of caffeine can mimic the physical signs and symptoms of anxiety for some people. I am one of those people. I get palpitations, feel clammy and become very restless if I drink too much tea or coffee. So although I love my cup or two in the early morning, I tend not to drink any caffeine after 12-1pm(ish). It also has a noticeable positive effect on my ability to get off to sleep when I follow this guideline.

A word of warning: Don’t dramatically decrease your caffeine intake or go ‘cold turkey’ if you drink more than 2 cups a day, as it can lead to bad headaches and extreme fatigue. I generally suggest, if you wish, to reduce by around one cup every 4-7 days.

Check out this article for more information on the science behind caffeine.

Prioritising sleep

Sleep always feels like a multiplier to me – the less I sleep, the harder everything feels and the more worried and stressed I become. The opposite is also true. If I prioritise sleep and the time it takes me to gently wind-down beforehand, the better I feel all-round. I find that turning off my mobile is an important step in my wind-down routine. This act sends me a message that it is also time to switch-off from the outside world and start to turn inward toward sleep. Click here for 9 more important tips for a great night’s sleep.

Talking to loved ones

There is that age-old saying of a ‘problem shared, a problem halved’. Sometimes, I find that is particularly true for worries. Speaking them out loud to a sympathetic and supportive ear seems to have an interesting effect. Putting it into words helps me to process the worry and see it from new perspectives, as much as it helps to hear another person’s thoughts.

This is something that many of us have missed out on sorely in recent months, so if and when possible, do try to actually speak to loved ones on video call, the phone or even in person (when safe to do so). This sense of connection is a powerful antidote to stress and anxiety.

Trying a meditation app

I am by no means and expert at meditation, but I did learn a few years ago with The School of Meditation  and find that if I do practice consistently, I definitely notice a difference. Perhaps try out the Headspace or Calm apps if you are new to it. I love the sleep stories on Calm, too, if I am struggling to drift off.

Article: Autumn Health by Amelia Freer

Seasonal food

Some of my favourite produce comes into season over spring so I have listed what to look out for below along with a few recipe ideas to help you make the most of them. Of course, there are lots more quick-and-easy spring recipes in Simply Good For You too.

Life as a Nutritional Therapist, Amelia Freer

Asparagus: Try my warm spring medley or simple grilled asparagus with fish.

Broad beans: I am a bit of an addict and eat them with everything when they are in season. Try them lightly steamed with lemon juice and good olive oil or in a dip with crunchy veg, or for little ones, try my fish fingers with broad bean mash

Leeks: I’m not sure you can beat this creamy lemon cod with fennel and leeks , although my comforting veggie bake is a close runner-up.

New potatoes: Simply cooked with good olive oil and fresh herbs is a winner for a spring table. I also love them in the one-tray roasted spring salad from Simply Good For You (pg. 234).

Oranges: I love oranges just as they come, as a citrusy treat after lunch or supper, but for a more decadent option, try this chocolate and orange chia pudding 

Purple Sprouting Broccoli: All broccoli is a bit of a staple in my life but this purple variety always feels pretty special when it is available. I eat it steamed and drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice or roasted with garlic and chilli.

Radishes: Try roasting them (trust me!). Otherwise, just enjoy them raw, dipped into a lemony dressing or houmous.

Samphire: I haven’t written any recipes for you yet using samphire so this is a good reminder to do so! I adore this salty marine vegetable steamed, then drizzled with olive oil and served with simple grilled fish and lemon.

Spinach: Baby leaf spinach and smashed smoked mackerel on toast is a bit of an addiction of mine but I also add it to soups, curries, stews and casseroles. This  fish and spinach curry makes a regular appearance on my meal plans.

Spring onions: Chopped onto salads and over soups or Asian dishes. I grow the purple ones, which make everything look so pretty.

Rhubarb: Always remember to remove the leaves as they are poisonous. I mostly just roast it in chunks with grated ginger and orange juice and enjoy with yoghurt. But if you want a more show stopping option, try my rhubarb and custard tart or rhubarb and orange fool.

Watercress: Of course, utterly delicious as a simple salad leaf, you could also try it in this amazing Spring Tart.

spring dish inspiration 

SPRING RECIPES

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Simply Good For You | Amelia Freer

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Headspace App

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Serving bowl | The White Company

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Cork Yoga Mat | Fresh Thinking Co.

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The Joy of Healthy Eating | Create Academy

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The Sleep Book | Dr Guy Meadows

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Small changes still count

Small changes still count

February 2021

Photo by Utsav Shah on Unsplash

However persuasively sold to us, it simply isn’t true that we need to radically change everything about our lifestyle and somehow becomes a new, ‘better’ person to be healthy. You would certainly be forgiven for thinking that was the case, given the plethora of advice, books, programmes and media noise surrounding health and wellbeing. Yet so often, grand gestures of renewal end up with a dejected retreat back into our old ways and we enter that familiar cycle of feeling like we have somehow ‘failed’ at the diet or regime we had so positively set out to maintain. Then the shame, guilt and need for comfort can creep back in and we find ourselves right back where we started.

So firstly, I would like to offer a collective wave of compassion to anyone and everyone who has ever been in this position. It’s tough, it’s confusing and I want you to know that you are most definitely not alone. Secondly, I would like to make a plea that this dichotomy we’ve inadvertently created, between being ‘good’ and ‘bad’, on-a-diet or off-a-diet, being entirely healthy or being wholly indulgent, is unrealistic and certainly unsustainable for the long run. We exist in shades of grey – where some parts of our days, myself included, are inevitably slightly healthier than others. Some whole days are more balanced, with more movement, more vegetables and more sleep. Others are a rollercoaster of stress, eating-on-the-go and late nights. That is real life and I would suggest that no restrictive or rules-based lifestyle will ever really be able to flex enough to meet all of these inevitable challenges.

There are, however, certain aspects of healthy living that are important not only to our current sense of energy and wellbeing, but also to our longer-term health. Whilst in the broadest terms, many of these factors are important for all of us (not smoking, restorative sleep, connection to others, a nourishing diet, stress reduction etc.), the combination, nuances and degree to which we need to be consistent, will vary between us and over time. We don’t need to do it all, and especially not in one go, in fact just making some small habit changes can add up to achievable and sustainable lifestyle improvements,

Photo by Susan Bell

Instead, I am an advocate of taking mini steps. And if those mini steps are too big, then make them micro ones instead. You want to feel like it is laughably easy to instigate the change you’re proposing. And even with my (pretty full-on) support, I would never ask a client to make more than 3 small changes at a time. If you’re doing it without professional input, I suggest that just 1-2 changes are enough. We are all busy, with numerous other things taking up our time and headspace.

But don’t be lulled into thinking that these little shifts are not important. My colleague, Rozzie, talks about the power of ‘1-degree course corrections’. If you set a ship just 1 degree off-course, it will end up in a completely different city by the time it crosses an ocean. The same principle applies to our wellbeing: shifting behaviour just 1 degree, maintained over the course of decades, can lead us into a completely different health space than if we’d stayed on the same bearing. One extra serving of vegetables per day adds up to 3650 more portions over a decade (and that’s a lot of fibre, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals). Just 30 minutes extra activity per week is 520 hours more heart-healthy movement over 20 years. Micro changes do add up. The fable of the hare and the tortoise come to mind here – big changes that burn out over weeks will ultimately be overtaken by incremental achievable changes that we just keep plugging away at.

I guess this could also be expressed as an equation, for those who are mathematically minded, that would look something like this:

Size of lifestyle shift x length of time change is maintained = degree of potential benefit

So remember, you don’t have to do it all to be healthy. You just need to do enough, on a relatively consistent basis, to feel well.

Photo by Jen Rich

Little shift ideas

  • Meditate or practice some mindful breathing for 2 minutes every morning, before getting out of bed
  • Eat one extra portion of vegetables per day
  • Drink a glass of water before lunchtime
  • Always take the stairs when you can. Park the far side of each car park.
  • Switch off your mobile phone before going to sleep
  • Have some protein with breakfast (nuts, seeds, nut butter, eggs, natural yoghurt etc.)
  • Avoid drinking caffeine after 3pm
  • Have three alcohol-free days per week
  • Eat a portion of oily fish once a week (mackerel, salmon, trout, sardines)
  • Have a small portion of (unsalted) nuts or seeds once a day – they are packed full of various essential vitamins and minerals. A portion is roughly 30g / a small handful.
  • Arrange one phone call per month with a friend who makes you laugh, rather than just texting
  • Briskly walk for 10 minutes at lunchtime
  • Sit down to eat your evening meal, leaving your phone and TV off

Other articles you might enjoy reading: Non-Food Treats; The Power of Positive Nutrition; Is Joy a missing piece of the healthy puzzle


This article was commissioned by Natural Health Magazine


100 healthy, plant-based recipes

100 delicious plant-based recipe ideas

January 2021

A great many of us are choosing to enjoy more plant-based meals, for taste, health, environmental and/or ethical reasons.

With over a million people now signed up to Veganuary (where you commit to eating an entirely plant-based diet for the month of January), and some deciding to stay plant-based for the longer term, it’s a way of eating that is going to be increasingly common, and important, as we move into the future.

From a nutritional perspective, it is important to learn about some key nutrients that we need to be conscious of in a plant-based diet, to avoid inadvertently developing nutrient deficiencies. I have written about this comprehensively in this article, and also discussed some of the wider pros and cons in this article; Thinking about: Eating a plant-based diet. I’d also highly recommend taking a look at this article from the NHS on creating a healthy vegan diet. Finally, if you’re interested in developing your nutrition and practical cooking knowledge more generally, take a look at my online course, The Joy of Healthy Eating. I dedicate a whole lesson in this to finding plant-based balance.

As always, alongside the nutrition, I am also greatly interested in taste, joy and flavour in food. So I have put together this list of dozens of plant-based meal and recipe ideas. Some may need little adaptations (such as switching honey for maple syrup, natural yoghurt for coconut or soy yoghurt, dairy milk for your choice of plant m*lk alternatives, chicken stock for vegetable stock, using a chia / flax egg rather than a hen’s egg or omitting a garnishing ingredient – such as feta or parmesan), but with a little common sense I think most of them are easily tweaked. There is lots of advice on The Vegan Society website to help with this.

Photo by Susan Bell

in my books

Turmeric and mango spiced chia pot (Page 148, Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan)

Banana, mint and lime smoothie (Page 182, Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan)

Green smoothie (Page 210, Cook. Nourish. Glow)

Avocado papaya salsa (Page 68, Cook. Nourish. Glow)

Grab-and-go chia pots (Page 159, Cook. Nourish. Glow)

Beauty bars (Page 42, Simply Good For You)

Coconut muesli (Page 39, Simply Good For You)

Berry smoothie (Page 35, Simply Good For You)

Chocolate smoothie (Page 35, Simply Good For You)

Fruity breakfast crumble bars (Page 45, Simply Good For You)

Winter Buddha Bowl by Amelia Freer
Photo by Simon Reed

in my books

Walnut lentil pate (Page 174, Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan)

Kale Waldorf salad (Page 228, Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan)

Chopped black bean salad (Page 247, Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan)

Green bean, pea and pistachio salad (Page 282, Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan)

Beetroot houmous (Page 136, Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan)

Green houmous (Page 73, Cook. Nourish. Glow)

Guacamole (Page 70, Cook. Nourish. Glow)

Steamed asparagus with pumpkin-seed salsa verde (Page 41, Cook. Nourish. Glow)

Purple sprouting broccoli with peanut sauce (Page 146, Cook. Nourish. Glow)

There are masses of hero toppings for toast, pitta or jacket potatoes, many of which are plant-based, in Simply Good For You.

Soup for the soul (Page 86, Simply Good For You) – use vegetable stock.

Instant watercress & avocado soup (Page 85, Simply Good For You)

Instant tomato & cannellini soup (Page 82, Simply Good For You)

Mediterranean quinoa salad (Page 99, Simply Good For You)

Photo by Susan Bell

in my books

Aubergine & chickpea curry (Page 186, Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan)

Falafel burgers (Page 248, Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan)

Lentil cottage pie (Page 283, Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan)

Stuffed peppers with chilli (Page 262, Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan)

Broccoli and cashew stir-fry (Page 24, Cook. Nourish. Glow)

Nori wraps (Page 159, Simply Good For You)

Lazy dahl (Page 223, Simply Good For You)

Stir-fried veggies and tofu (Page 224, Simply Good For You)

One-Tray roasted salads (Pages 228 – 235, Simply Good For You)

Cauliflower & chickpea tray bake with rocket and pickled red onion (Page 236, Simply Good For You)

Butternut, cashew & sage pasta (Page 243, Simply Good For You)

Pad Thai with turmeric tofu (Page 244, Simply Good For You)

Photo by Susan Bell

in my books

Nutty banana nice cream (Page 227, Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan)

Baked orange & almond pear (Page 266, Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan)

Passion fruit ‘crumble’ (Page 284, Cook. Nourish. Glow)

Peanut butter & Jam Smoothie (Page 178, Cook. Nourish. Glow)

Set strawberries with coconut cream (Page 246, Cook. Nourish. Glow)

Mango jelly (Page 263, Simply Good For You) – Use vegan setting agent alternative

Roasted fruit salad (Page 268, Simply Good For You)

Rhubarb and star anise crumble pot (Page 271, Simply Good For You)

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Simply Good For You

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Nourish & Glow: The 10-day plan

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Cook. Nourish. Glow.

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The Joy of Healthy Eating

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GreenFeast, Autumn-Winter | Nigel Slater

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GreenFeast, Spring-Summer | Nigel Slater

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Curry Easy Vegetarian | Madhur Jaffrey

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The Green Roasting Tin | Rukmini Iyer

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BOSH! | Henry Firth & Ian Theasby

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The Power of Positive Nutrition

The Power of Positive Nutrition

November 2020

This article was commissioned by Natural Health Magazine

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Everyday food choices have become quite fraught for many people, which I think is a real shame. Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, comforts and lovingly held expressions of cultural and familial identity and this is not inherently confusing. It is just food. Ingredients alone cannot be all ‘bad’ or ‘good’. Of course, certain types of food, once ingested and digested, may be more beneficial to health than others. And the production of different foods will have variable ethical and environmental considerations.

But sharing a few glasses of wine with a girlfriend who is having a rough time is not ‘bad’ or enjoying a slice of cake on your child’s birthday is not ‘naughty’, or even confusing. These are all lovely experiences that can beneficially nourish our social and emotional health.

I feel that limiting ourselves to such black-and-white nutritional thinking can inadvertently be a risk factor for creating unnecessary anxiety and restrictive rules around food. We of course need to find a sensible balance and prioritise having plenty of nutritious foods, but a little perspective and common sense can go a long way here.

I therefore can’t help but find the confusion around food, with messages coming at us from all directions about what we supposedly ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ be eating, as well as the unprecedented shaming of other people’s nutritional decisions, really worrying. We seem to have lost sight of the bigger picture – that the fact we have abundant food and choice is a reason to be joyful. Many, many people around the world simply do not have this option. Gratitude can be a powerful antidote to the noise.

How do we move forward? How can we begin to establish what a good enough diet looks like for us as individuals – and feel confident enough in our choices to be able to respectfully allow the tide of incoming opinion to the contrary to simply wash over us? Good Enough in terms of nutritional quality, but also speed, taste, sustainability and cost.

Photo by Jony Ariadi on Unsplash

I suggest we start from the basics. Human bodies need a wide variety of essential nutrients to function. These are a collection of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids (healthy fats) that we cannot make for ourselves, and therefore need to consume in our food. This is a universal equaliser – while different people will vary in exactly how much they need of each nutrient for optimal function (something we are still not often good at defining or measuring, even in a research context) – we all need at least some of these essential nutrients.

A balanced and varied diet is generally the best way to provide ourselves with this diversity of nutrients. In reality, that looks like a diet containing plenty of colourful fresh fruit and vegetables, high quality proteins, healthy fats, nuts and seeds and unrefined wholegrains or other complex carbohydrates. For most of us, this is a sensible place to begin.

This approach helps to shift our focus onto getting enough of the important and necessary nutrients our bodies need for growth, repair and metabolic function, rather than a worrying about having ‘too much’ of the less nutritionally dense foods. And that mindset shift is the basis of Positive Nutrition. It’s fundamentally about what we do eat everyday, of the foods our bodies need, rather than what we don’t eat so much of. It’s a shift in thinking from deprivation to abundance that can be incredibly liberating, particularly if we have been caught up in a cycle of on-off dieting for a long time. It also provides us with a framework upon which we can start to experiment, play and discover more about what works for us, at this moment in time.

Knowing what we do about individual variability in responses to food – from genetics to the impact of the microbiota – there can never be a single diet that works for all. It just doesn’t make sense, from a scientific point of view, that this could exist. So instead, we could take the principles of Positive Nutrition, and then give ourselves the freedom to adapt, tweak and shift them to work for us. Perhaps adding more carbohydrates if we are particularly active, or reducing our intake of vegetables if we struggle with a higher-fibre diet. Shifting to a more plant-based approach, or prioritising our food budget on a few more ethically sourced animal ingredients. Or simply using it as the basis to find a handful of easy, nourishing recipes that work well for our families in the busyness and chaos of everyday life.

It’s deeply empowering to know ourselves well, nutritionally and gastronomically. Knowing what works for us as individuals, and knowing what we can let go of. To me, that’s the power of positive nutrition.

Would you like to learn more about this topic?

What is Positive Nutrition?

Understanding food categories

For lots more on how to embrace Positive Nutrition in your life, and specific information on how to use the Positive Nutrition Pyramid please see my third book, Nourish & Glow: The 10-day plan, which is written specifically about this topic.

Download free, printable copies of the Positive Nutrition Pyramid in A4 and with 4 to a page.

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Nourish & Glow: The 10-day plan

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Natural Health Magazine

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Simply Good For You

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healthy breakfast ideas

80+ Healthy Breakfast Ideas

September 2020

A nutritious breakfast can be a very positive way to start the day. Ensuring our bodies and brains are well nourished helps to provide us with energy and focus right through until the evening.

I know, however, that many people get stuck in a breakfast rut and while I don’t think it matters if we eat the same few things for breakfast day-in, day-out (we have to be realistic), I do know that it is easy to get bored and want to find new and tasty things to eat.

So I have put together a selection of healthy breakfast ideas and recipes, to help you add some variety to your mornings. Whether you have just enough time for a quick breakfast squeezed before work or a leisurely morning to create an elaborate brunch, there’s ideas for everything. Sweet, savoury, make-ahead, kid-friendly, speedy and a few more unusual options – there’s something for everyone!

I’ve split them up in to 7 sections. Perhaps one for every day of the week?! Those are; healthy smoothies, eggs, fruit, toast, vegetables, pancakes and oats. Click on the links below to expand each section. You’ll find links to lots of free recipes available online, as well as references to relevant recipes in my books (with handy page numbers so no need to go searching).

A note on breakfast being the ‘most important meal of the day’:

Nutritional thinking has changed over the last few years around the importance of breakfast. I certainly agree that for some people, having just two nutritious, balanced meals a day (lunch and dinner) works perfectly and the prolonged overnight fast has benefits for them as individuals. It does mean, however, that those two meals need to pack in all the nutrition that would previously have been spread out over three meals, so should be undertaken mindfully.

For many of us, however, breakfast is here to stay. The key from a nutritional perspective is therefore to make it as nutritious and balanced as our remaining meals. ‘Breakfast foods’ like processed cereals, white toast, jams, pastries and such are fine for occasional enjoyment and delight, but don’t have the same nutritional density, protein, healthy fats or essential vitamins and minerals that whole foods provide. If breakfast offers about 30% of our energy intake in a day, then it also needs to provide about 30% of all our other important essential nutrition requirements too. Of course, not exactly, but I hope you get the gist! These recipes will help to do just that, so keep reading for lots of practical examples.

Deliciously healthy breakfast recipes

Photo by Jen Rich

Healthy Breakfast Smoothies

Smoothies are a great option if you are in rush.  Prepare the ingredients in the evening and leave them in the blender jug in the fridge overnight, so you’re ready to swiftly blitz in the morning and be on your way. Don’t blend the night before though, as the smoothie will discolour. It’s safe to drink, but it doesn’t look very appetising.

The key to a healthy and balanced smoothie is to ensure that you include a source of protein (such as seeds, nuts, nut butter, dairy or soya yoghurt, protein powder or milk), ideally a portion of vegetables (I find mild-flavoured baby leaf spinach blends well) and stick to a single portion of fruit (to help balance blood sugar levels). This should help a smoothie to keep you feeling full until lunchtime.

Busy day smoothie

Turmeric pineapple smoothie

Beetroot ginger smoothie

Summertime smootie

in my books
4 wholefood smoothies (Golden, Green, Berry & Chocolate) on pages 33-35 of Simply Good For You

Banana, mint & lime smoothie – pg. 182 of Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan

Favourite products for smoothies:

This is the blender I swear by. Hugely powerful, but with noise suppression technology and capable not only of blending, but stirring, mixing and chopping too.

A more affordable option, the Nutribullet blender is a best-seller for a reason. Well-priced, powerful, quick and easy to clean and small enough to fit on top of your worksurfaces.

This unflavoured, unsweetened, plant-based protein powder from Form is my go-to and the one I most often recommend to clients if they’d like to use one.

This wide-mouthed travel smoothie bottle is made from borosilicate glass and comes with a non-slip neoprene sleeve. The steel cap fits tightly enough to ensure a leak-proof seal, too.

Almonds are my go-to smoothie nut, adding some necessary protein, nutrients and healthy fats. They blend really well if you soak them in water for a few hours first (ideally overnight). I buy them from here in bulk.

High in protein, hulled hemp seed blends well into smoothies (especially if soaked for a little while first). I tend to buy them in bulk to make it a much more cost-effective addition.

Photo by Susan Bell

Healthy Breakfast Eggs

Eggs are a fantastic way to start the day. A quick and simple source of protein and many essential nutrients, they help us to feel full and balance our blood sugar levels, keeping cravings and snacking at bay even late into the afternoon.

If I’m in a rush, I’ll quickly boil an egg using this fantastic electric egg boiler (trust me, I was sceptical too, but it’s a brilliant piece of kit for busy mornings). If I have more time, I’ll make a frittata or egg muffins, which are a great way to include more vegetables at breakfast time (and they freeze well too, so perfect for batch cooking).

Egg muffins

Summer vegetable frittata

Vegetable souffle with parsely, sage & rosemary

Green shakshuka

Shakshuka using leftover vegetables

Egg on toast, broad beans with herbs & feta

Kale & mushroom muffins

Breakfast pizza

Herby green omelette

Egg breakfast salad

Amelia’s Favourite Breakfast

Warm Breakfast Salad

in my books

Egg and vegetable tray bake – pg. 62 of Simply Good For You

Mini frittatas – pg. 76 of Simply Good For You

Breakfast pizza (complete with a grilled egg on top) – pg. 64 of Simply Good For You. This one is a real hit with Willow.

Hard-boiled eggs with watercress pesto (worth making extra pesto as it goes brilliantly with lots of ingredients) – pg. 128 of Cook. Nourish. Glow.

Scrambled eggs with roasted tomatoes and dulse – pg. 222 of Cook. Nourish. Glow

For a special weekend brunch, these beautifully Colourful Layered Eggs from pg. 113 of Cook. Nourish. Glow are a bit of a show-stopper.

Favourite products for eggs:

I was hugely sceptical about how useful this little gadget would be when my partner bought it. But I was wrong. It’s like having a toaster for eggs!

These beautifully simple, porcelain egg cups from Broste Copenhagen are the chicest way to start your day.

This is the perfect shallow pan with fitted lid, made to last in white enamelled cast iron. The heavy bottom means food cooks beautifully evenly and can be used on the hob, in the oven, or under the grill.

Ideal for beating eggs and making the fluffiest omelettes, this brilliant whisk has a comfy handle, sturdy wires and is easy to clean.

A silicon muffin tray is a really useful tool if you are batch-cooking egg muffins for the week ahead or to freeze.

I like the old-fashioned satisfaction of setting off my egg-timer and waiting for it to ring. A simple pleasure, but a useful one nonetheless.

Photo by Jen Rich

Healthy Fruit Breakfasts

If you prefer a sweeter breakfast, fruit is a great way to go and tends to also be a good option for anyone cooking with little ones. The key in terms of nutritional balance is to also include some protein. That might be unsweetened natural yoghurt, chopped nuts or seeds or nut butters, all of which work well alongside fruit.

I like to use berries at breakfast (frozen when out of season, fresh in the summer). They are a source of anthocyanins, a type of dietary antioxidant, and tend to be relatively lower in sugar and higher in fibre than some other fruits. There’s not much simpler than a bowl of natural yoghurt, a pile of strawberries or raspberries and a small handful of chopped almonds, for example. But here are a few more recipe options for your inspiration. You can of course switch around the fruit you use in them according to what’s in season or what your taste preferences might be.

Fruity breakfast crumble bars

Rhubarb orange fool

Spiced apple sauce

Blackberry and lemon chia pudding

Cherry compote

in my books

There are 4 lovely yoghurt bowl recipes (Apricot & pistachio, Gut-friendly, Berry jam and Fig & hazelnut) on pg. 52-59 of Simply Good For You.

Fruit at breakfast doesn’t always have to be completely sweet. I love the chicken & mango breakfast salad on pg. 71 of Simply Good For You.

Baked orange & almond pears – pg. 266 of Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan.

Turmeric & mango spiced chia pot – pg. 148 of Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan.

Favourite products for fruit:

Convenient sized clip-top glass storage jars and so useful to have in the kitchen. I have dozens of these and use them for everything from making overnight oats and yoghurt breakfasts to storing portions of fruit compotes or sauces.

These are the sweetest heart shaped ramekins. Pretty and perfectly sized for mini crumbles, yoghurt bowls and fruit breakfasts.

If you love apples and like to bake with them then I cannot recommend investing in one of these brilliant gadgets.

A sharp peeler makes light work of fruit & vegetable preparation, which is exactly what we need on rushed mornings.

I use these super sharp paring knives from Victorinox every single day. They just make fruit & vegetable prep much simpler and faster.

A wooden chopping board makes a huge difference to how quickly you can do your meal preparation. I find that wood absorbs the shock of the knife better than plastic and stops the food slipping around, helping to make chopping faster and safer.

Photo by Jen Rich

Healthy Bread & Toast Breakfasts

The key to a healthy toast-based breakfast is to start with a nutritious and minimally refined bread, ideally one that includes whole grains and/or seeds. I really like this rye bread from Biona.

Finding a properly fermented sourdough (which also gives it that wonderful tang) is another nutritional trick, as the fermentation process can help to reduce the impact that the flour may have on blood sugar levels, as well as increase the bioavailability of nutrients, such as zinc, to make them more readily available. I love this one from Riverford, which takes 48 hours to prepare and bake.

If you are gluten free, then these are the best GF breads that I have found, both in terms of taste and texture, and nutrition:

Next, we need to think about making the toppings nutrient dense too. The possibilities are enormous, but again, the key is to think about adding some sort of protein, vegetables (or fruit) and healthy fats.

12 favourite things on toast

Herby green bread

Carrot & caraway gluten free bread

Beetroot, rosemary & walnut soda bread

The hangover sandwich

Avocado & broad beans on toast

Sweet potato toasts with scrambled tofu

in my books

There is a whole chapter of healthy and nutritious toppings for toast in Simply Good For You. I called them my ‘hero toppings’ as they really help to pack in nutrition and taste for anyone feeling exhausted and time-poor. You can definitely still have your toast and eat it with these ideas!

Favourite products for bread and toast:

A sharp, effective bread knife is a necessity if you’re baking-your-own.

A good loaf tin can make all the difference to how your bread bakes, and how easily you can remove it.

This beautifully simple bread bin, with ventilation holes for air circulation and optimal freshness, a lovely integrated bamboo chopping board and linen storage bag for extra fresh bread.

Handmade in the UK, simply wrap this around your bread and store it away in a cool, dry place to keep it fresher for longer.

If you’re on the lookout for a beautiful, handmade breadboard that will very much stand the test of time, take a look at these stunning boards from Temper Studio, handmade in English Beech, Oak or Sycamore.

This is the toaster I have had for years. I love how it looks and how simple it is to operate.

Photo by Jen Rich

Healthy Vegetable Breakfasts

Savoury breakfasts are my absolute favourite and I encourage you to challenge your comfort zone if vegetables at breakfast feels weird to you. Familiarity often leads to enjoyment, so keep at it and your tastebuds will adapt.

One of the easiest ways to add vegetables to breakfast is to add a few cherry tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms or wilted spinach to your eggs, toast or other savoury breakfast. Or blend a portion of veg into a smoothie (spinach, kale, cucumber, courgettes and even cauliflower can work well). But it’s also fun to think outside the breakfast box and try a few less-typical vegetable-packed breakfast dishes. There’s a good few ideas below.

Some of these dishes take a little extra preparation so I’d opt to make them for a leisurely weekend brunch rather than a hectic morning.

Sweetcorn fritters with a yoghurt herb dip

Warm breakfast salad

Avocado and broad beans on toast

Smörgåsbord platter

Green ‘wake me up’ broth

Brunch vegetable fritters

Grilled sardines & tomatoes with crunchy herb dressing

Beetroot parsnip fritters

Celeriac rosti

Amelia’s Favourite Breakfast

in my books

Butternut baked beans (vegan) – pg. 61 of Simply Good For You. Perfect for batch cooking, and just as lovely at lunch or supper too.

Favourite products for vegetables:

I use these super sharp paring knives from Victorinox every single day. They just make vegetable prep much simpler and faster.

A wooden chopping board makes a huge difference to how quickly you can do your meal preparation.

I use my microplane grater for everything from garlic and ginger to adding a little lemon zest flavour boost. When you’re done give it a quick rinse or put it in the top rack of the dishwasher for easy cleaning.

This mandolin slicer is the quickest way to prepare vegetables, I use mine daily.

A sharp peeler makes light work of vegetable preparation, which is exactly what we need on rushed mornings.

For the most beautiful sharing platters at breakfast, you need a good-sized plate. This beautiful oval platter is made from Portugese clay, with a classic white glaze. It’s a classic.

Amelia Freeer's Buckwheat Breakfast Pancakes with Stewed Blackberries
Photo by Emma Goodwin

Healthy Pancake Breakfasts

There is something pretty wonderful about pottering about the kitchen, radio on, mixing and frying pancakes. Perhaps it’s because they are a breakfast dish I only make when there is a gentle start to the day and enough time free to do them justice. So, in my mind, they’re associated with all sorts of happy memories. Birthday mornings, celebratory weekends, breakfast-in-bed. It’s why I love them so much.

But pancakes don’t have to only be saved for special occasions. The mix can be whipped up quickly in the morning or made in advance and kept in the fridge overnight, and if you do a big batch, they tend to keep well for a few days (perhaps just warming them through gently before serving).

I often use buckwheat flour in my pancakes for the wonderful nutty taste, and top with unsweetened yoghurt (protein), fruit and nuts, seeds or a dollop of nut butter (healthy fat and added protein) to provide all of the nutrients I need for a healthy balanced breakfast.

Here are a couple of gluten free pancake options, but you can use regular wholewheat flour if you wish.

Buckwheat breakfast pancakes

Coconut flour pancakes

in my books

The easy Protein Pancakes on pg. 51 of Simply Good For You have been so popular with readers and they really are super quick to make.

Favourite products for pancakes:

If there is one thing that makes successful pancakes a whole lot easier, it’s a good pan. Big enough to accommodate a few mini pancakes at a time, but not so big that you can’t make a single crepe without it breaking apart.

I try to mix up my nut butters to help broaden the variety of healthy fats in my diet. I love this delicious cashew nut option.

I’m a huge fan of these lightweight, set of 5 nesting stainless steel mixing bowls. They are virtually indestructible, you can choose the exact size you need according to the recipe you’re making.

To make good pancakes, you need a good whisk to get rid of lumps and make a beautifully smooth batter.

Could there be a more divine way to wake up, than taking this beautiful tray back to bed, complete with steaming mug of tea (or coffee), stack of pancakes and the weekend newspapers? The best of simple pleasures.

This delicious organic maple syrup is the perfect addition to a stack of scrumptious pancakes.

Healthy Breakfast Oats

A comforting bowl of hot steaming porridge is a wonderful staple breakfast, particularly during the colder autumnal and winter months. I love it topped with a little yoghurt (dairy free is fine if you prefer), some diced apple or pear, a sprinkle of these and a drizzle of honey or scattering of chopped dates.

I also love oats in the warmer months too – they are a nutritious and simple whole grain to incorporate into our diets at any time of the year. Overnight oats, or Bircher muesli are easy summer options. They are a useful recipes to have to hand if you’re often busy in the mornings, as you can mix together one big batch that will do you for 2-3 days.

As always, remember to add some protein (milk, yoghurt, nuts, seeds, nut / seed butter, protein powder) to help you feel full and keep blood sugar levels stable. It is often this food group that is missing if you find that you’re ravenous just a couple of hours after breakfast.

Crunchy nut & seed granola

Quinoa porridge

Crunchy amaranth granola

Creamy coconut strawberry chia breakfast porridge

Apple crumble oats

Overnight almond oats with poached pears

Chocolate Orange Porridge

Raspberry and Lemon Porridge

Tropical Mango Porridge

Cherry Bakewell Porridge

Apple and Cinnamon Porridge

in my books

The Bircher Muesli on pg. 36 of Simply Good For You is my go to breakfast for busy days and can be infinitely varied according to the toppings.

Coconut Muesli, pg. 39 of Simply Good For You.

As for granola, my favourite one to make from scratch is on page 141 of Nourish & Glow: The 10 Day Plan

Favourite products for oats:

I have a stack of these robust bowls, which to me are the perfect size and shape to wrap your hands around on a frosty morning, especially when filled with enticing and steamy porridge.

I was sent this Apple & Cinnamon granola, from Bio & Me, which contains added prebiotic fibre alongside wholegrain oats, a mixture of seeds and some dates for sweetness. This is a great option if you don’t have the time to DIY.

Convenient sized clip-top glass storage jars and so useful to have in the kitchen. I have dozens of these and use them for everything from making overnight oats to storing portions of fruit compotes or sauces.

If you eat gluten-free oats, I’ve found that buying online (especially in bulk, if you eat a lot) can be a cheaper option.

An ancient grain that I love to use in my granola, this makes a welcome change from oats.

The prettiest little scalloped bowls made from Portuguese clay in a classic white glaze. I use these almost every day and always get lots of questions about where they come from.

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9 tips for a great night’s sleep

9 tips for a great night’s sleep

July 2020

Photo by Samuel Myles on Unsplash

Sleep, or the lack of it, can influence so many different aspects of our health and wellbeing. Many of us know the joy that comes from waking up after a wholly uninterrupted and blissfully restorative night, but also how profoundly a bad night can affect the following days.

I admit that I fall in to the latter camp lately, mostly due to the needs of my little one. And that is a key point I really want to make here.  Good quality sleep is not always in our personal control – from frequent trips to the bathroom to caring responsibilities, longstanding health problems or medication side effects – we can’t solve all sleep issues with a more comfortable bed and technological ‘sun-down’.

BUT, I often work with clients who have more general sleep troubles, yet don’t do these basic things consistently. ‘Sleep hygiene’ is a great first step to help improve the amount and quality of sleep you get.

I thought it might therefore be helpful to share my 9 most frequently recommended sleep tips, in case it helps any of you get an extra hour or two of restorative shut-eye. For more significant concerns, or if there are medical issues affecting your sleep, please do speak to your healthcare provider. There is often support available.

1. set realistic expectations.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that most adults aim for 7-9 hours sleep a night, although anywhere between 6-10 may be appropriate, depending on your personal requirements and circumstances. Generally speaking, sleeping for <6 hours, or >10 is not recommend.

It’s therefore sensible to set realistic expectations. Some people do need less sleep, but if you’re someone who needs a little more, allow for this in your schedule and don’t try to burn the candle at both ends every night.

2.  minimise the 5 key sleep disruptions.

These are light, noise, heat, alcohol and caffeine. Minimise as necessary, according to your personal tolerance for each. Some people are more sensitive than others, either to individual factors, or a combination of them.

Light
Most of us sleep best in a very dark room. That might require installing black-out blinds or hook-on curtain liners , particularly in the summer months, and making sure that ambient light (from alarm clocks, chargers, hallways etc.) is also reduced. Recent research has found that light receptors are not only found in our eyes, but in our skin too . These may also influence our sleep-wake cycles, so aiming for a dark room, rather than just an eye mask, may be beneficial for some people.

Noise
Background noise can be a real sleep disruptor. Sometimes, this can’t be helped (such as hearing your baby crying), but when it is safe to do so, ear plugs or a white noise machine can be really helpful. If it is external or traffic noise that is most problematic, then investing in some sound-insulating windows, shutters or extra-heavy curtains may also be worthwhile.

Heat
A hot bedroom can reduce your ability to get off to sleep, and causes frequent night waking. Aim for a comfortably cool bedroom and breathable layers of clothing / bedding. I have this fan, which has been a real lifesaver on super hot summer nights.

Alcohol
Alcohol might feel like a sleep aid, in that it can help us to relax and perhaps temporarily quiet racing thoughts, but actually, it impairs the quality of our sleep later in the night, so that overall, we get less rest and restoration. Stick to a sensible alcohol intake and try not to consume it after your evening meal has finished. For more info, check out my longer article on alcohol here.

Caffeine
Many of us are cautious about the amount of caffeine we consume in the late afternoon and evening, but for some people, caffeine consumed much earlier in the day may still be affecting sleep. If sleep is a challenge for you, try gradually reducing your caffeine intake over a couple of weeks (I don’t recommend going ‘cold-turkey’), to see if it has a positive impact. Also, don’t forget to check the ingredients on some medications (particularly for colds), which may also contain caffeine.

3. include magnesium containing foods in your diet.

Magnesium is an essential dietary mineral that is thought to play an important role in sleep regulation. Magnesium-rich foods include green leafy vegetables, legumes and pulses, nuts (especially almonds, cashews, peanuts), seeds, whole grains and yoghurt. Getting magnesium from whole foods is always my initial recommendation. Supplements of any kind should be discussed first with a qualified nutrition or health professional.

4. stick to a consistent sleep schedule.

You’ll probably have read this one many times before, but it is still a good tip. Try (although I know this is impossible if you are working shifts) sticking to a consistent bed time and waking-up time, even at weekends, as it helps our bodies to get into a good rhythm of knowing when to be wakeful, and when to start getting sleepy.

5. sleep books.

The Sleep Book by Dr Guy Meadows is my top self-help recommendation for anyone suffering from chronic sleep troubles. I’ve suggested it to many clients, as I often find that sleep difficulties make new habits (especially dietary ones) much harder to stick to. It suggests a different way of looking at insomnia, using the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which might offer a new approach to those you’ve read of in the past.

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker is also an excellent book, although I would suggest being cautious about reading it if you are already struggling with insomnia, as it might potentially increase anxiety around sleep – which is inevitably unhelpful and may exacerbate the problem.

6. observe a technological sun-down.

This tip is most often suggested due to the potentially stimulatory effects of artificial light in the evenings. When technology use is essential in the evenings, the effects may be reduced through warm tint settings or blue-light blocking glasses. If technology use is not essential, however, then switching to other forms of unwinding (such as a creative activity, warm bath, relaxing music, journaling or reading) might be an alternative strategy. I generally recommend doing this for somewhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours before you want to fall asleep. See what works best for you.

I think, however, that there is another aspect to this tip that is not so often discussed. It is recommended that we go to bed when we feel tired, but certainly in my own experience, it can be really hard to recognise this cue if we are engrossed in those magical shiny light boxes we are now so familiar with (phones, TV, computers, tablets etc.).  The automatic play function of online streaming services is, I think, a real culprit for our collective lack of sleep. Pushing through (or not observing) the cues to sleep can sometimes result in a ‘second wind’, where wakefulness returns and the ability to drift off to sleep is harder again. Furthermore, the content of the media we consume before bed can potentially trigger anxiety or wakefulness – I don’t recommend regularly watching late-night news programmes, for example – they are often full of anxiety-provoking stories that we might be better able to process in the morning.

Again though, as always, it is very much down to our individual experience. None of this affects us all in the same way. We need to work out what does matter for us and act accordingly.

Photo: Amelia Freer

7. avoid large meals just before bedtime.

Where possible, I generally suggest my clients aim to have their main evening meal at least 2-3 hours before going to bed, which allows our stomach time to start digesting and processing the meal before we lie flat. This can also sometimes help reflux-type symptoms, too.

You may find, however, that eating your meal many hours before bed leaves you a little hungry. That can also negatively impact sleep. A small snack, such as a handful or almonds and an apple, or a slice of rye toast with a dollop of nut butter and some squished blueberries, might be beneficial.

8. get some early morning sunlight.

Our natural wake-sleep cycle (called the Circadian Rhythm) is basically an internal body clock and influences all sorts of biological functions. One of the ways to help regulate this clock is to get some bright light, ideally sunlight in the morning. Even better if you can combine it with a little exercise, such as a quick walk. Even a minute or two is better than nothing.

Photo: Susan Bell

9. leave your phone out of the bedroom.

Last, but by no means least, this is my little plea. If you always go to sleep with your phone by your head, please consider either turning it off, or leaving it in another room.

I often wonder if never turning our phones off means that we don’t get a chance to switch off either – there’s always that possibility that it might ring or beep at any moment and demand our attention. Perhaps that keeps us engaged, and on edge, more than we are quite aware of? Or try using the sleep cycle which means you won’t get any distractions between set hours.

NB., If you’re used to using your phone to wake you up, consider buying a standalone alarm. This sunrise alarm clock is what I now have by my bedside and am a big fan.

Wishing you all a very good nights sleep.

 

Amelia x

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SHOP THE EDIT

Wild Nutrition Magnesium

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Sunday Of London Sleepy Mist

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Woron Sleep Mask

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Sunrise Alarm Clock

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The Sleep Book

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Why We Sleep

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Is Joy a missing piece of the healthy puzzle?

Is Joy a missing piece of the healthy puzzle?

June 2020

Photo by Fuu J on Unsplash

Practicing good nutrition, healthy living, regular exercise or frankly, any aspect of wellness can, at least to some people, be deeply associated with joylessness and parsimony.

It seems, on occasion to have become equal to holding back, setting rules and abstaining from the pleasures of life for the sake of discipline. ‘Living the good life’, on the other hand, is hedonistic, freeing and allows us to do as we please as we throw caution to the wind.

Thankfully, however, this constructed dichotomy of healthy vs. joyful is simply untrue.

For healthy so often is joyful. Not in a superficial or aesthetic sense. That, I fear, is transitory at most and relies too heavily on comparison with others. No, I am much more interested in the very immediate and sensory joys that can be found in great food, enjoyable exercise and the sense of mental peace that comes from embracing self-compassionate practices.

The joyfulness to be found in healthy practices is an essential but missing piece of the puzzle and despite it’s crucial role, is one that is mostly disregarded. I think this oversight is often where the mocking, scoffing and even, sometimes, anger leveled against this industry comes from too. It is all part of the same misconception – in our own minds as much as anyone else’s – that we can either choose to enjoy ourselves (and be fun to be around) or we can choose to be ‘good’ and boring. What rubbish!

For how could it ever be possible to eat well for life, if that way of eating is not utterly filled with joyful moments? Even fear can’t keep us on the path of a bland and unpalatable diet for long. Food is, afterall, one if the most important simple pleasures in life. Take that away, and what are we left with?

But finding the joy in eating well, now that is where the magic happens.

It becomes effortlessly easy to sustain, as the reward is adequate for the effort we are putting in. What, specifically, is joyful about our food will be as varied as we are, but I’m not sure there are many dishes that can beat an incredible bowl of sun-ripened cherries, of beautifully slow-cooked ratatouille drizzled in tangy olive oil, of incredibly fresh fish straight off the grill, or greens lightly sautéed in garlic and ginger. It’s far from abstemious or boring. It’s a delight and one that is amplified if enjoyed in the company of loved ones.

But good food is rarely just about eating. It needs to be sourced and cooked first. Again, this can so often conjur up negativity and images of being enslaved to the kitchen. Of hours spent chopping, washing, stirring and working. There is little fun in that, particularly if the whole thing is done anxiously or grudgingly.

Finding the pleasure in these necessary culinary activities comes from reframing our approach. The joy of cooking is found in the creation of something from seemingly disparate ingredients. The alchemy is intriguing and blending flavours is like mixing colours. More brightness, more depth, more tang or more body. You’re an artist of the saucepan, mixing and tweaking until you’re happy with the end result. It does take a modest amount of kitchen confidence, but with the immense volume of free resources now available online, is thankfully an almost universally accessible skill to learn.

Photo by Henry Be on Unsplash

The same idea applies to all aspects of wellness. Take regular exercise, for example. If you want to participate consistently, surely either the exercise itself needs to be enjoyable, social or at the very least satisfying, or so-called ‘Type 2 fun’ – when you get to bask in the benefits after completing the activity. The ‘runners high” for example. You might not love the feeling of the run, but the euphoria that comes afterwards makes it all worthwhile. These are the reasons we keep at it. Ask a keen runner why they run and inevitably the answer is ‘because I love it’. Not ‘because I should do it or because it burns xxx calories’. Ask an enthusiastic dancer, or swimmer, or yogi, or someone who loves to walk, or gym goer the same question and you’ll often hear the same response. They have found the joy and that is why they continue. They no longer do it from a sense of duty or requirement, but an intrinsic motivation for pleasure is what drives them out of the door.

I always find it fascinating to watch young children move just for the joy of moving. They can’t help it – the happiness simply has to burst out of them. I guess we have learnt to inhibit ourselves from doing the same as we have grown up. But it was clearly an innate need inside of us. We just need to find what lights that spark again.

Ultimately, I believe that we are all motivated more deeply by our drive to find joy than we ever could be from logical reasoning. Of behaving in a certain way because we have been told to, or because we think we should. So perhaps that should be the ultimate aim of us all wellness professionals – to help people find their joy. When this overlaps with healthy living, that is the sweet spot of life where taking care of ourselves and enjoying ourselves, becomes easy.

 

Written by my colleague Rosamund Yoxall BMBS BSc


Summer Health

Summer Health

Updated June 2022

The following article is for information only and is no substitute for medical advice or your own research. Please be mindful of your needs and seek appropriate professional support as necessary.

Seasonal Food

Summer is peak growing season, with fields, growing spaces, polytunnels, allotments and perhaps even our own gardens or windowsills bursting at the seams with produce. It’s easier to find locally grown fruit and vegetables and as harvests increase, prices tend to fall too. Now is therefore the perfect time to embrace fruits and vegetables in all their technicolour glory.

Remember my positive nutrition philosophy encourages us to aim for up to 6 portions of vegetables and 3 of fruit per day. Some people might do better with more, some less. But wherever you’re starting, just adding in a few extra portions here and there is a wonderful addition and now is the perfect time to take full advantage of the delicious range of sun-ripened produce. ESPECIALLY enjoying UK produce now that we have it rather than buying what has been flown in from overseas.

Here’s a list of what’s in season in the UK, as well as a few tips for ways to enjoy them and some recipes too.

Artichoke – I usually use artichokes in a jar to add to salads but if you can get fresh then enjoy them with a simple vinaigrette or add them to my warm roasted salad.

Aubergine – I love to slow roast it with herbs and spices but my trusted and most popular recipe EVER is my Aubergine and Chickpea Curry.

Beetroot – I love beetroot and it is so versatile. Try it raw in salads, slow roasted, pickled or blended into hummus. My beetroot hummus recipe in Nourish & Glow: The 10-day plan has been a huge hit with readers.

Blueberries – great to top porridge or yoghurt with, add to muffins or blend into smoothies or make into a compote or chia jam and also, you can freeze them.

Broccoli – roasted and dipped into hummus is something I’ll never tire of. Just always keep it crunchy! Mushy broccoli is awful unless you want to mash it with potatoes, olive oil and a little spring onion or bake them in nuggets (the recipe for this is coming soon…!)

Carrots – I like to make thin strips using a vegetable peeler to pile onto salads. But I also love them slow roasted with a sprinkle of cumin. My carrot and turmeric soup has been one of my most popular recipes on Pinterest.

Cherries – There is nothing nicer than a bowl of fresh cherries on the table. I rarely do anything else with them.

Courgettes – This Yellow Courgette, Herb and Feta salad has been my go-to salad for years, or this Ribbon Courgette Salad with Rocket, Feta & Hazlenuts is another beautiful recipe that can be a meal in itself or a great side dish for meat or fish. For something sweeter, try the Gooey Courgette brownies in Simply Good For You.

Cucumber – I like to slice it really thinly using a vegetable peeler or a mandolin. It is delicious on toast with tahini and a little sprinkle of chilli flakes. Or added to water with lemon & mint.

Fresh herbs – I feel that any salad or meal can be enhanced with a few chopped or torn fresh herbs. Add mint leaves to fennel, tarragon to chicken, basil to feta & tomato salads, coriander to curries, dill to potatoes, chives to eggs, rosemary to roasted vegetables… you really can’t go wrong and they are very easy to grow.

Fennel – I love it raw and finely sliced. But it’s also delicious roasted. This creamy cod with fennel and leek recipe is one of my favourite meals to make.

Gooseberries – I wish I had a more creative suggestion for gooseberries other than making a crumble or fool, but I don’t ever seem to do anything else with them. Any suggestions welcome!

Green / runner beans – I simply steam and enjoy with some olive oil, lemon and if I have them, flaked almonds on top. Or baked with a tomato sauce. But I also have a habit of munching on them raw….

Mange tout – Steam fried with olive oil and lemon juice is the only way I ever cook these.

Peas – Willow loves the Chicken & Pea burgers in Simply Good For You and they’re a lovely easy summer dish for grown-ups too, with just a side salad and some ripe, chopped tomatoes. But I love to eat peas fresh from the pod and it reminds me of my childhood when I used to do this a lot.

Plums, greengages & damsons – We grow these and so we have a lot. Any that we can’t eat fresh I tend to make into compotes and freeze in small portions to add to porridges, or make chia jam, or use in baking later in the year. Of course they all work well in crumbles too.

Potatoes – roast them, boil them, mash them… I LOVE them! This potato salad recipe is another favourite with my pinterest followers.

Radishes – If you haven’t tried roasting radishes in olive oil, salt and pepper, do give it a try. Otherwise finely slice or grate them over salads or just eat them whole dipped into hummus.

Raspberries – Although my favourite way to enjoy summer berries is just as they are, these little chocolate raspberry pots are a treat, as are my Lemon & Raspberry muffins. Also, remember that they freeze well.

Salad leaves – add them to almost every meal! I add baby leaves to eggs at breakfast, or shredded into sandwiches, a handful on the side of the plate to go with simple fish or chicken, with a curry or on top of a soup. Heck, you can even stir salad leaves into pasta or make them into a soup. There are lots of salad recipes for you to browse through here.

Spinach – A super-simple summer supper is this Poached Fish with Spinach in a Chilli-Tomato Sauce or blend it into this simple smoothie. Remember that spinach also freezes really well, so no need to ever waste it.

Strawberries – The epitome of summer. I love eating them for breakfast in this Strawberry chia breakfast porridge or the strawberry crumble breakfast bars from Simply Good For You but of course they are wonderful with a glass of champagne!

Tomatoes – I find cherry tomatoes have better flavour in the UK than the larger, harder tomatoes. I throw fresh tomatoes onto most meals but also slow roast them for sauces which can be frozen for the depths of winter when tasty, ripe tomatoes can be harder to find. One of my most summery tomato salad recipes is this one or for a delicious slow baked recipe that can use fresh or tinned, try my tomato & butterbean baked eggs.

I hope these ideas have made you hungry and inspired to enjoy all of the wonderful british produce this summer.

Coping with hay fever and seasonal allergies

For many with hay fever and seasonal allergies, summer can feel a bit like one long cold. Symptoms often include a runny, itchy or blocked nose, sneezing and watery / itchy eyes. Caused by an allergy to pollen (often from grasses), hay fever tends to peak between May and July, although this can vary a lot between people. Tree pollen, for example, can cause symptoms in April.

Now, I am not a doctor, so I am not able to offer advice on the more medical aspects of this condition or suggest any sort of treatment. What I hope I can offer, however, is a little advice, support and encouragement on a few of the lifestyle and nutritional aspects instead. Please see the link at the bottom for additional NHS advice.

Amelia Freer Good Mood Food

1. Remember you are not alone.

Seasonal allergies are very common. Hay fever is thought to affect about 1 in 5 people in the UK and tends to run in families. Alongside your GP or other healthcare provider, local pharmacists are a good point of contact for advice and treatment of hay fever symptoms.  Do reach out to them for help and support if you have any concerns.

2. Try to reduce your exposure to pollen

Completely avoiding pollen is usually impossible, but symptoms can be a little less severe if you reduce your exposure. When the pollen count is high, then the following tips may help:

  • Stay indoors when possible, keeping windows and doors shut (especially mid-morning and early evening, when the pollen count tends to be highest).
  • Keep windows shut when driving. You can buy pollen filters for the air vents in your car (although these need to be changed regularly to maintain their efficiency).
  • Avoid mowing the lawns, or spending long periods of time in large open, grassy places (such as parks /picnics / camping etc.)
  • Shower and wash / rinse your hair and change your clothes after being outdoors.
  • Wear wraparaound sunglasses when you’re out and about.
  • Avoid line-drying clothes and bedding when the pollen count is high.

3. Local honey

Despite common belief, there is no consistent scientific evidence (yet) to support local honey helping with hay fever symptoms. The pollen that causes hay fever tends to come from grasses and trees, which is different to the small amount of pollen in honey (as this comes mainly from flowers). But if you find it helps you and you’re consuming a sensible amount, then there’s likely no harm in carrying on (so long as you have no problems with blood sugar management, diabetes etc.). Remember not to give honey to infants under one. 

4. Nutritional support

While it is important to stress that there is no such thing as a specific, evidence-based diet for hay fever, it’s a good idea to try to eat a nutritious and balanced diet where possible for all sorts of wider health reasons.

Things like consuming a wide variety of colourful fruit and vegetables (which contain a variety of potentially anti-inflammatory polyphenols, as well as fibre and essential nutrients), including some oily fish or plant-based omega-3 fats in your diet, and aiming to eat a mainly whole-foods, minimally processed diet are all a sensible place to start (Hoff et al., 2005, Singh, Holvoet and Mercenier, 2011).

Research is currently ongoing examining the potential role of the microbiome and probiotics, in allergic diseases such as hay fever. While many more good-quality studies are needed to design safe treatments and guidelines based on this work, there are some promising findings under investigation (Yang, Yang and Liu, 2013).

For full information, take a look at this NHS overview.

Safe sun exposure

Sunshine, at safe levels, often feels good for us. It brightens our mood, enables us to enjoy the great outdoors and helps our body produce vitamin D. As a nutrition professional, I am often asked about vitamin D and how much sun we should get to keep our levels topped up. However, as you’ll see below, there is no single answer to this question, as there are a lot of variables that need to be considered to safely enjoy the sunshine.

Over-doing sun exposure is not a good idea as it can lead to skin damage and may increase the risk of skin cancer. Finding where the balance lies between the benefits and risks of sunshine is inevitably a very individual matter. I hope, however, that this summary of my own reading and research of some of the key suggestions for safe sun exposure might help you feel more informed too. Of course, I come at this as a nutrition professional, not a skincare professional, so please be aware that I might not have covered absolutely everything here. However, writing this article has certainly encouraged me to up my own sun care regime, and I thought some of the information I read about was worth sharing. I hope you find it interesting.

As always, please ask for professional advice if you have any concerns about your skin or if you have risk factors that may increase the effects or potential damage of sunlight on your skin. Likewise, if you think you’re at risk of vitamin D deficiency, please seek appropriate support.

Sun exposure

The intensity of the sun’s rays will vary a lot between geographical location, time of year (interesting to note that it is at it’s most intense in the UK in late June), The time of day (strongest from 11am – 3pm), weather conditions and reflection (such as snow, sand, water or bright surfaces). The UV index from the Met Office provides some helpful information on UV levels in the UK.

A quick sun strength test that works anywhere in the world is the ‘shadow rule’. If your shadow is shorter than your height, the sun intensity is strong and you’re more likely to burn. So you’ll need to take extra care to protect your skin.

Skin colour also influences safe sun exposure. People with genetically darker skin are at a relatively lower risk of burning, but potentially at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency in the UK. Those with darker skin tones may therefore need a little more time in the sun to produce the same amount of vitamin D as people with lighter skin, although should still take care to avoid sunburn (NICE, 2016).

For all of these reasons, it’s therefore impossible to give one standard response to how much sun exposure is safe for us each to have. Being informed, however, should help us to make sensible decisions for ourselves on a daily basis.

Understanding UVA & UVB

UVA is associated with skin ageing, as it affects the elastin in our skin and leads to wrinkles, leathery skin and pigmentation. It penetrates more deeply than UVB and can reach through glass. UVA protection in sunscreen is rated by stars, from 0-5. It is recommended that we look for broad-spectrum UVA and UVB sunscreen products, ideally with a UVA rating of 4 or 5 stars (alongside a high SPF).

UVB is more responsible for sunburn and has stronger links with skin cancers. A sunscreen with high SPF (sun protection factor) helps to block UVB and prevent sunburn. The British Association of Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30+ as a satisfactory form of sun protection, alongside protective shade and clothing.

NB., The SPF integrated into other products (primers, moisturisers, foundations etc.) can’t necessarily be relied upon to give us the same level of protection as a standalone sunscreen. We tend to use smaller amounts and they may be less rub-resistant and water resistant. Also, moisturisers containing an SPF may not contain any UVA protection and therefore don’t necessarily protect against UV ageing.  It’s therefore advised to use a standalone sunscreen alongside our skincare routine and make-up.

Mineral vs. chemical sunscreens

Mineral sunscreens tend to contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which reflect UV radiation away from the skin. These can be thought of as ‘mirrors’, bouncing the light away. These sunscreens may also be known as ‘physical’, ‘natural’ or ‘reflective’.

Chemical sunscreens absorb UV radiation and give it back out as infrared. These are like sponges, mopping up UV radiation that reaches the skin. They may also be known as ‘absorbers’.

The type of sunscreen you choose is really a personal decision, but do look out for the SPF and UVA star rating on any product you buy. One thing I have noticed is that mineral sunscreens don’t often have the UVA star rating on their label. You might therefore need to do a little more digging to check that they have appropriate broad-spectrum coverage.

I am currently using this sunscreen from Heliocare on my face and I like that it is light and not shiny and doesn’t aggravate my acne-prone skin.

I also use this broad-spectrum, SPF 30 scent-free suncream from Green People for my body.

Finding a broad-rimmed sun hats at a reasonable price is always a mission. I recently bought this one.

I have my eyes on these utterly glorious tents for picnics and beach days, so we all have somewhere to escape from the sun while still being outside. A girl can dream!

How to apply sunscreen

Studies have suggested that many people apply less than half the amount of sunscreen required to reach the level of protection stated on the packaging (British Association of Dermatologists, 2013).

While the exact amount you need will depend on the formulation, a rough ‘rule of thumb’ is that we need around 6-8 tsp (30-40ml) of sunscreen to cover our bodies appropriately (NICE, 2016).  Check the label to see how much is recommended to achieve the stated sun protection. If sunscreen is applied too thinly, the amount of protection it gives can be dramatically reduced (i.e., using too little SPF 15 may only be achieving around SPF 5 or less).

Other sunscreen tips:

  • Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before you go outside. If you’re going out into the sun for a prolonged period of time, it is recommended that you apply again at the time you go outside. This will help reduce the risk of missing patches. More is generally better.
  • Re-apply at least every 2 hours and immediately after swimming, sweating and towel drying, or if it has rubbed off.
  • Water-resistant products are not necessarily towel-resistant! Up to 85% can be removed with towel drying.
  • Check the expiry date – most sunscreens have a shelf life of 2-3 years, and should be replaced after their expiry. And store it in a cool, dark place, as extreme heat can damage the protective properties.
  • Don’t rely on a high SPF to skip re-applying sunscreen frequently, or use less product. High SPF sun creams can sometimes create a false sense of security, so do not rely on them to stay in the sun longer or not take other sensible shade-seeking precautions.

Vitamin D and sun exposure

Sunlight exposure (between April – October) to commonly uncovered areas, such as our forearms, hands and lower legs, that we get incidentally during daily activities if outside, should be enough to boost vitamin D levels, without ever getting a heavy tan or burning.

Remember that skin produces plenty of vitamin D long before it starts to burn, and won’t continue to make more vitamin D after a short period of time in the sun. We don’t need to sunbathe, or spend prolonged periods of time in the sun to boost vitamin D levels. For those at higher risk of skin cancer, however, protecting the skin from the sun is a priority and so vitamin D may need to be obtained from other sources (such as diet or supplements) as necessary. Please discuss this with your doctor if required.

It is difficult to say exactly how long every individual needs to spend in the sun to achieve sufficient vitamin D levels, as it will depend greatly on skin type, risk factors and sunlight intensity (as discussed above). Darker skin tones may need to spend longer in the sun to achieve the same levels of vitamin D, and/or look to alternative sources of vitamin D rather than relying on sunlight alone.

Please read this article on Vitamin D for more information on those alternative sources.

Other precautions

Alongside sunscreen use, there are various other precautions that we should take to reduce our risk of sun damage.

  • Wear a hat with a large brim (at least 3 inches) and sunglasses (with the appropriate CE mark).
  • Wear light-weight, long-sleeved clothing when in the sun. Sunscreen is not an alternative to covering up with suitable clothing and seeking shade, but it does offer additional protection. No sunscreen, no matter how high the factor, can provide 100% protection.
  • Stay in the shade between 11am and 3pm, particularly when it’s sunny.
  • Keep babies and young children out of direct sunlight, and cover them with suitable clothing, encourage time in the shade and always use a sunscreen. To ensure they get enough vitamin D, all children under 5 are advised to consider vitamin D supplements.
  • Avoid sunbeds and deliberate sunbathing. Take care to never burn.
  • Remember, even if it is cool or cloudy, it is still possible to burn.
  • There is no safe or healthy way to get a tan from sunlight, or sunbeds. And don’t rely on a tan to offer your skin protection. A tan offers a SPF of around 3 – not nearly enough to protect ourselves from sun damage (Cancer Research UK, 2016)

For more information, take a look at the NHS website on sunscreen and sun safety here.

And this list of 12 sun safety myths debunked from Cancer Research UK is well worth a read. I learnt a lot!

Please tell your doctor immediately about any changes to a mole.

Content kindly reviewed by Dr Eve Sloan-Brittain, GP with a special interest in dermatology.

summer dish inspiration 

SUMMER RECIPES

References & Bibliography

British Association of Dermatologists, 2013. British Association Of Dermatologists – Sunscreen Fact Sheet. [online] Bad.org.uk. Available at: <https://www.bad.org.uk/for-the-public/skin-cancer/sunscreen-fact-sheet> [Accessed 13 May 2020].

Cancer Research UK, 2016. 12 Sun Safety Myths Debunked. [online] Cancer Research UK – Science blog. Available at: <https://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2016/06/10/12-sun-safety-myths-debunked/> [Accessed 13 May 2020].

Hoff, S., Seiler, H., Heinrich, J., Kompauer, I., Nieters, A., Becker, N., Nagel, G., Gedrich, K., Karg, G., Wolfram, G. and Linseisen, J., 2005. Allergic sensitisation and allergic rhinitis are associated with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet and in red blood cell membranes. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 59(9), pp.1071-1080.

NICE, 2016. 2 Supporting Information For Practitioners | Sunlight Exposure: Risks And Benefits | Guidance | NICE. [online] Nice.org.uk. Available at: <https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng34/chapter/2-Supporting-information-for-practitioners> [Accessed 13 May 2020].

Singh, A., Holvoet, S. and Mercenier, A., 2011. Dietary polyphenols in the prevention and treatment of allergic diseases. Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 41(10), pp.1346-1359.

Vliagoftis, H., Kouranos, V., Betsi, G. and Falagas, M., 2008. Probiotics for the treatment of allergic rhinitis and asthma: systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 101(6), pp.570-579.

Yang, P., Yang, G. and Liu, Z., 2013. Treatment of allergic rhinitis with probiotics: An alternative approach. North American Journal of Medical Sciences, 5(8), p.465.


Self-care practices for our changing world

Self-care practices for our changing world

We are in this together.

I feel passionately that NOW is the time when self care matters most. Access to support systems and professional resources may be harder than it has been in the past. So instead, we may turn to ourselves and call on the reserves of strength, resilience and courage that we all have inside of us.

Having a regular and robust self-care strategy is going to be so important over the next few weeks or months. Exactly what this means will look different for each of us, but it is likely to be necessary to help us cope and contribute. While coronavirus is a big old stress that feels front-and-centre of our lives and is inevitably taking up a vast amount of bandwidth, life is still happening around it – both the ups and downs. I realise all of the information can feel overwhelming so where do we start when it all feels so big?

I have always found it helpful to divide ‘wellbeing’ into separate zones or areas. It’s too homogenous to lump it all together and ends up leaving me feeling paralysed with all the different things I feel I could be doing. So instead, I want to take it right back to basics here and focus on the things I think probably matter the most.

Sleep. Movement. Mind.
Food. Connection. Health.

It is crucial that as we think about these things, we remember that we cannot do it ‘all’ at the moment (if ever!). We cannot eat a “perfect” diet (not any time actually), not least because access to ingredients is likely to be sporadic. We cannot exercise in the way we might have been used to. We are unlikely to have long stretches of quiet time to ourselves for mindfulness practices (especially if we have little ones at home). Stress levels are high enough already. So, please, please don’t pile any extra guilt onto yourselves at the moment. We can all afford to let a few things go. Focus instead on being good enough. This is not a time for strict wellness rules (bar the obvious importance of public health advice). Flexibility is going to be key over the next few months.

Here are some things that my team and I have come up with that we hope might provide a little inspiration to help you care for yourselves during these uncertain times.

Wishing you all courage and compassion.

 

amelia freer

FdSc, Dip ION

Click below to explore each zone of wellbeing

Disclaimer: As always, the information contained within these articles is in no way a substitute for professional health, nutritional or medical advice. Please be mindful of your own needs and seek professional support as necessary. The situation surrounding coronavirus is rapidly changing, so current public health or legal guidelines may be different from when this article was written or last updated. The same goes for any of the resource links that we have shared. Please stay informed and stay safe.

There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.


Winter Health

Photo by Maria Shanina on Unsplash

winter health

Updated Nov 2021

As autumn gently slides into winter and the riotous colours of Mother Nature subside into gentle, greyscale hues, the call of the natural world – and often of ourselves – is to withdraw, rest and replenish. A time to wrap up snugly, spend time with loved ones and embrace the cosy concept of ‘hygge’.

Far from being a cause of melancholy, I find winter, with its early evening sunsets and long, stormy nights, a delicious contrast to the sunshine of summer. It’s almost like we need the dark to appreciate the light – and to give ourselves the perfect excuse to run hot baths, light real fires and indulge in delicious slow-cooked feasts. Not to mention the child-like glee that greets a snowy landscape or clear, crisp frosty morning.

There’s joy in winter beyond the shining light that is the festive season, but it’s a quieter, gentler and more introspective version of joy than the ebullience of summer. At least, for me it is. I hope this article offers a few helpful hints and tips to support you and your health through these darker months and on into spring.

Please also see my Autumnal Health article for information on ways to gently support immune function or to relieve fatigue.

A Healthy Home

With more time spent indoors, the dial on the central heating turned up, and the windows and doors firmly shut, I find that I am increasingly conscious of the internal environment in which we spend the vast majority of our time. I want it to be warm, comfortable and inviting, certainly, but I also want it to be supportive of my family’s health, energy and sleep too.

Healthy Winter Home

1. Ventilate more: This is the single best thing to do to improve indoor air quality, even if you live in a city. Try to open your windows twice a day, especially in humid areas (bathrooms and kitchens), bedrooms and your main living space. Just 5-10 minutes can reportedly help improve air quality, without resulting in an enormous loss of heat.

2. Bring a bit of nature inside: Although evidence is mixed, it is thought that houseplants may be able to help to purify the air inside our homes. Whether they make a measurable difference or not, there is certainly a lovely atmosphere that greets us in a room brightened with some natural life. It’s also a more ecologically-friendly option than regularly buying fresh cut flowers (that have often been air-freighted). They are best positioned in places where we spend most of our time, such as the office, sitting room and bedroom.

3. Consider room layouts to maximise daylight: Daylight is essential for regulating our circadian rhythm and the release of the hormone melatonin at appropriate times (helping us to feel awake during the day, and sleepy at night). This can be particularly important during the shorter daylight hours of winter. So if you are working from home, or spend a lot of time indoors, it’s a good idea (if possible) to move the furniture you spend lots of time on or at during daytime hours (your desk, kitchen table, favourite chair etc.) closest to the windows, and push the furniture you spend more time on in the evenings to the back of the room. But getting outside everyday, even if just for a few minutes, is equally as important – even just 5 minutes in the morning can help regulate your body clock and potentially improve sleep.

4. Embrace non-toxic cleaners:

While there is rather little research on the impact of using non-toxic home and personal care products on human health, this is one area where I tend to base my decisions on the precautionary principle. In other words, I choose to err on the side of caution, and therefore buy and use ecologically friendly and natural products as much as possible (with a wary eye to the idea of ‘green-washing’ – the use of ‘natural’ on labelling is not a regulated term, for example). I am also increasingly aware of the impact small day-to-day decisions I make have on our carbon footprint and use of plastics.

As regular readers of mine will know, I am a huge fan of the Bower Collective and regularly use their range of cleaning and laundry products. They use all non-toxic ingredients and all the pouches can be returned for recycling.

I don’t use air fresheners and only use scented candles now and again (although when I do, these are my favourites and they are made from 100% natural vegetable wax), and if we do light a real fire, I am sure to air that room the next day.

SHOP THE EDIT

Lavender Laundry Collection | Bower Collective

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Compostable Scourers | Seep

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Glass Trigger Spray | Bower Collective

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Organic Candle | Neom

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Fern | Bloom & Wild

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Grapefruit Sanitising Spray | Bower Collective

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Eating Well in Winter

It’s easy enough to slip into a familiar pattern of grazing and over-indulgence as a way to pass the time in winter (perhaps also in an effort to boost flagging energy or mood). I have certainly found myself heading back towards the kitchen cupboards many times in those long, dark evenings. Plus, with Christmas in the middle of our darkest months, bringing its merry round of festivities and parties that usually encourage decadence (which I am all for, at least in moderation), it is easy to see why our healthy eating habits and intentions may be harder to stick to over winter.

Chicken Tray Bake by Amelia Freer

But a little indulgence is good for us sometimes (remember that eating can be just as important for our social and emotional health as it is for our physical health). I have a few strategies I’ve learnt over the years that may help us maintain nutritional balance, even when the weather and the light is against us.

1. Keep eating plenty of vegetables: It’s just as important to eat a variety of colourful vegetables every day in winter as it is in summer. If you don’t fancy salads (and I definitely prefer warmer foods in the cooler months), then soups are a brilliant warming way to boost our vegetable intake. Or roast a tray of seasonal vegetables once a week to enjoy as an instant side, make a few slow-cooked vegetable stews (I usually throw in some chickpeas for added protein), or try sneaking an extra portion or two of vegetables into your main dishes (frozen spinach is a great hack for this one). I generally suggest we aim to work towards 6 portions of vegetables per day – although one more than you’re having currently is the best place to start.

2. Try to have a 12 hour overnight fast: Aim to finish eating 12 hours before you have breakfast in the morning. So if you finish your evening meal by 8pm, avoid snacking again before bed and have breakfast some time after 8am the following day. It’s a simple way to give our bodies and digestion a break. Of course, it’s fine to stay hydrated while fasting – clear fluids like water or herbal teas are probably best for this. Don’t worry if you can’t achieve it every day, it’s a good rule-of-thumb for most people to aim for when possible.

3. Watch out for alcohol ‘creep’: As we head through the festive season in particular, there can be a gradual (or massive!) increase in alcohol intake. There’s nothing wrong with a glass or two for most people, but it’s worth keeping a compassionate eye on our overall consumption. If nothing else, it will help make getting out of bed on these cold, dark mornings a little easier. I usually recommend to my clients to have at least 3 days completely alcohol-free per week and to stick below the recommended maximum of 14 units (which is roughly 7 medium – 175ml – glasses of wine). If the ritual of an evening drink is what you enjoy most, rather than the alcohol itself, try to switch to a grown-up soft drink instead. I like Seedlip & tonic, or a spicy tomato juice.

To learn more about this, please do take a look at my article on Alcohol: How much is too much?

4. Embrace the opportunity to be creative: Long evenings in may also mean you’ve got a little more time on your hands to get creative in the kitchen. Bookmark healthy new recipes you’d like to try, as and when you see them, so you’ve got a bank of inspiration at your fingertips for those moments when you fancy whipping up something novel for supper. Check out my Pinterest page as it’s chock full of ideas, or browse through My Bookshelf to see some of my own favourite cook books.

Don’t forget about Vitamin D

Vitamin D intake over the winter months (Oct-March in the UK) is strongly recommended. Take a look at the NHS recommendations NHS choices website for more information, or have a chat to your local pharmacist

SHOP THE EDIT

Vitamin D 400IU Daily Spray | BetterYou

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Small Wine Glasses | The White Company

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Non-alcoholic Spirit | Seedlip

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Spicy Tomato Juice | Big Tom

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Simply Good For You

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Slow Cooker | Morphy Richards

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Seasonal Food

The traditionally hearty foods of winter are some of my favourite ingredients, and there is a wonderful alchemy that seems to happen between foods that are in season together.

Here is a list of my favourite British produce in season over winter, plus a few recipe ideas to help you make the most of them. There are lots more quick and easy winter recipes in Simply Good For You, too.

what’s in season

See my Winter Recipes here.

Beetroot Beetroot & Parsnip Fritters & Beetroot, Rosemary & Walnut Soda Bread
Brussels sprouts Fragrant Sprout Slaw 
Celeriac Celeriac Rosti
Celery
Chicory and Radicchio
Jerusalem artichoke Jerusalem Artichoke & Hazelnut Soup 
Kale Kale & Bean Soup with Pistachio & Lemon Pistou
Kohlrabi I like this simply peeled, then grated (raw) into a very simple salad with some olive oil, lemon juice, perhaps with a little natural yoghurt and a pinch of salt.
Leeks Creamy Lemon Cod with Fennel & Leeks 

Parsnips either roasted or in soup
Potatoes
Swede
Squash & Pumpkins Spiced Chickpea, Kale & Squash Salad 
Apples Crisp Apple & Fennel Winter Salad with Turmeric Dressing (this dressing is SO good!)
Citrus fruit One-tray Roasted Winter Salad  or my Clementine, Honey & Olive Oil Cake 
Passion fruit Passion Fruit ‘Crumble’
Pears Try the Coconut & Almond Pear crumble on page 254 of Simply Good For You
PomegranateWild Rice Purple Salad 

winter dish inspiration 

WINTER RECIPES

SHOP THE EDIT

Greenfeast [Autumn, Winter] | Nigel Slater

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Vegetable Peeler | OXO

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Sustainable Wooden Chopping Board | Konk

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Large Casserole Dish | The White Company

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Knives | Victorinox

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Soup Bowls | The White Company

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Please note, this article is not sponsored but it does contain affiliate links. If you buy something through these links, we may earn a small affiliate commission, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our online content free for everyone to access. Thank you.

The above content is for general information only and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare or nutrition professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. Please discuss all supplements with a qualified nutrition or healthcare provider prior to commencing.