Nutritious Christmas food

turkey dinnerTurkey is a great source of lean protein. It is also low in fat and low in calories – just what you need this festive season! It is also high in selenium, which supports metabolism, zinc that help to boost our immunity and vitamin B6 essential for energy production.

Turkey is also packed with tryptophan, according to Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading nutritionist (www.marilynglenville.com).

‘Carb cravings are a sign of low levels of the amino acid – tryptophan, which is necessary for the serotonin production, a ‘happy’ brain chemical. It plays a crucial role in sleep and waking cycles as well as digestion. A lack of it can lead to low mood and anxiety. Instead of reaching for stodgy carbs go for turkey – it’s packed with tryptophan!’ says Dr Glenville.

Brussel sprouts

Brussels sproutsNot the most popular of vegetables they are in fact really good for you.

Brussels sprouts are cruciferous vegetables that are packed with vitamin K, vitamin C, folic acid, calcium and magnesium. They can also help to avoid the mid-afternoon slump on Christmas Day, as they are packed with B Vitamins, essential for energy.

 

CinnamonCinnamon

‘Cinnamon is one of nature’s most revitalising herbs. Filled with potent antioxidants – more than almost all other spices and herbs – it may help to reduce signs of ageing, boost metabolism as well as aid digestion, gently warming your stomach, supporting the breakdown of your food more efficiently.’ explains Dr Marilyn Glenville.

Cinnamon also has the ability to regulate blood sugar levels, so adding it to your café latte, smoothie, or dessert is always a good idea.

Nuts

‘Nuts are packed with goodness, high in essential nutrients especially the minerals and vitamins. They are also protein-rich so are broken down more slowly and therefore stay in the stomach longer, making us feel fuller and snack less,’ Dr Glenville tells us.

‘They also help to balance your blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, which is an essential part of healthy weight loss and management. Nuts are high in calories, so don’t gorge on them, but allow yourself a healthy decent handful a day.

‘Make sure they’re raw and unsalted to get the maximum benefit from the delicate oils they contain.’ says Dr Glenville.

 

Mulled red wine

‘Red wine is a good source of resveratrol. This powerful antioxidant, which can be found in the skin of red grapes, berries, cocoa and red wine, is produced in plants to defend them from invading microorganisms.

It can not only protect you from damaging free radicals but it also boosts cell replication. By promoting a healthy, inflammatory response in our body it delays premature aging process and turn excess flab into calorie-burning ‘brown fat’. If you are not a big fun of red wine but want to stay healthy, keep radiant skin and look fabulous this festive season go for a supplement with resveratrol.

To claim a 5% discount on products at www.superfooduk.com  you can put in the promotion code: HSoul1.

Festive recipes

Festive SusanI’m already seeing too many articles about how to deal with excessive consumption at Christmas. My advice is simple, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger and freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

Use the season as an opportunity to give your food a festive touch by including a touch more spice. In this blog, I’m focusing on ginger and cinnamon, both of which contain some interesting phytochemicals which are good for your health.
Ginger contains potent anti-inflammatory compounds known as gingerols. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I include ginger in every juice I make. You can also make it into a tea, by merely pouring boiling water onto a few thin slices of peeled root ginger. Add a pinch of turmeric and/or squeeze of lemon if you like, to make a healthy hot drink.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is the inner bark of the tree of the same name. The bark is either used direct, in stick form, or ground to make a powder. The characteristic festive odour of cinnamon comes from the compound cinnamaldehyde, which is thought to be responsible for its glucose-lowering properties (below). It also has anti-bacterial properties, which is why cinnamon oil/candles are good to burn in the winter months – they might help you ward off colds and flu. Like ginger, cinnamon is also rich in antioxidant, anti-inflammatory phytochemicals. A sprinkle of cinnamon goes well with a healthy breakfast of Greek yoghurt and blueberries.

Studies suggest that an intake of up to two tbsp. per day of cinnamon may help reduce blood glucose and increase insulin sensitivity, which could help prevent Type 2 diabetes.

Ginger and berry smoothie

I made a discovery here – frozen mixed berries contain redcurrants and blackcurrants which are hard to source at the greengrocers. They work better in a smoothie than a juice, so this has to be made in two stages – extract the ginger into a juice which is then added to the smoothie.

Two servings
1kg bag of frozen berries
Pomegranate juice
Large piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
Defrost the berries. Take a handful and juice with the ginger. Then make a smoothie with this juice and the rest of the berries. Top up with pomegranate juice.

Festive soup

My mother used to make a delicious carrot and ginger soup. This is an extended version with more veg from the orange part of the spectrum and some pulses for added protein.

Four to five servings
Large piece of ginger, peeled and grated
Two tsps. ground cinnamon
Two onions, peeled and chopped
Four carrots, peeled and chopped
One red pepper, peeled and chopped
One yellow pepper, peeled and chopped
Two 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
100g soup mix pulses or red lentils
Rosemary and/or mixed herbs
Fry all the peeled vegetables with the ginger and cinnamon till softened. Add the tomatoes, pulses/lentils and herbs and simmer till pulses/lentils are soft. Top up with vegetable stock if the mix is too thick. You can serve this chunky or blend with a hand blender for a smoother soup.
Walnut turkey

When I cooked my first vegetarian Christmas dinner, friends joked about my ‘walnut turkey’. The recipe for my festive nut roast is slightly different every time and, this year, I’m returning to the walnut theme – not forgetting to add some cinnamon. Don’t wait for Christmas day – I’m rehearsing my walnut turkey this weekend!

Festive Susan
Serves four to six
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, finely chopped
200g mixed mushrooms, finely chopped
100g spinach
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
4 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
I tbsp. mixed herbs
100g walnuts, chopped
50g hazelnuts, chopped
100g crumbled Weetabix
3 large eggs, beaten
100g Pecorino cheese, grated
1 tsp Marmite
2 tbsp tomato puree

Fry the onion in the coconut oil till soft, then add the mushrooms and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the spinach and stir till wilted. Make a paste with the Marmite and tomato puree in a little boiling water and add this to the vegetable mixture, with the tin of tomatoes. Set aside to cool. Stir in the Weetabix crumbs, nuts, cheese, herbs and cinnamon. Add the beaten eggs.  Stir until well mixed and transfer to a loaf tin lined with greased foil. Bake for around an hour. I served this with onion gravy, Brussels sprouts and carrots in the rehearsal meal. On Christmas Day, I’ll make a tomato and cranberry sauce and add roast potatoes with rosemary to the vegetables.
Have a happy and healthy Christmas!
Next time
. P is for pomegranates

Avoid bloating this Christmas

Christmas puddingBy Melanie Simcock, Nutritional Therapist

We’ve all been there; feeling bloated on January the 1st with a strong desire to hibernate for the rest of the winter.  The party season is drawing to a close and the only thing we’ve exercised over the past fortnight is a little plastic card!  But it doesn’t have to be like that.  With a little forethought and planning we can have a great time and still greet the New Year with vigour.  How?  Well it may seem strange but…..

Decide when Christmas is going to begin

Each year the festive season gets earlier.  Our summer tans haven’t even begun to fade before the Christmas goodies are appearing on the supermarket shelves.  So make a conscious decision not to slip any mince pies and the like into the trolley before say 20th December (you decide the date).  The same goes for Christmas confectionery.

Last year I found empty chocolate tree decorations in the cupboard – they hadn’t even made it to the tree!  So this year they won’t make it to my trolley until a few days before Christmas; saving me pounds in more ways than one.  Ok some may feel that this is a little harsh, but if we have these goodies for weeks before Christmas we pile on the pounds and they stop being special to the festive season.

So how do we take the sting out of the party season whilst still having fun?

Try some of my Party Tips:

  • Eat a little before going to the party; couple of pieces of fruit or small bowl of cereal.  Then you won’t go mad over the calorie laden canapés when you arrive.
  • Drink a good tumbler of water before going out.  This will stop you using alcoholic drinks as thirst quenchers.
  • Match every alcoholic drink with either a glass of water or fruit juice.  This will keep down the calories as well as keeping you hydrated and reducing the hangover.
  • Enjoy the party food but handle with care calorie laden foods such as full fat cheeses, crisps, salted peanuts.  Listen to your body and know when you’ve had enough.
  • Before retiring to bed drink a tumbler of water to rehydrate the body.

Delicious and nutritious are not mutually exclusive.  We can have festive fayre which is light on the hips and arteries but still tastes great.

My cooking tips:

1. Cook your turkey on a rack allowing the fat to run free.  Avoid eating the highly calorific skin.
Dry roast potatoes and parsnips – boil for 5 mins, drain and shake vigorously in the pan.  Place in ready heated roasting tin with a little olive oil and fresh herbs and pop into hot oven for 40 mins – delicious!
2. Don’t skip breakfast.  Make it a special ‘Christmas fruit platter’ with fruits you consider a treat.  This will provide essential nutrients and keep you from diving into the chocs before lunch.

3. Soups are very welcoming and nutritious, especially after returning from a winter walk.  Try pumpkin soup: place chunks of pumpkin, onion and garlic in roasting tin and drizzle over little olive oil.  When roasted whiz up in a liquidiser with some vegetable stock until smooth.  Serve warm with a little plain yogurt and crusty bread.  This soup is always popular with children.

Roast a batch of colourful vegetables; fennel, all colours of peppers, courgettes, red onions, garlic etc., with a little olive oil and few sprigs of rosemary.  This makes a delicious and colourful main course when mixed with a little cooked pasta and olives or a great accompaniment to left over meats.  The rosemary emits a wonderful aroma as it cooks.

4. Place healthy treats around the home to encourage festive nibblers; bowls of plump satsumas, nuts in their shells, crudités with variety of houmous dips etc.

And so to the thorny question of exercise

We do not have to resort to pumping iron at the gym to stave off that January feeling but being a couch potato for the festive season isn’t going to have us zinging into the New Year either.   Just half an hour each day walking in the fresh air is an excellent tonic for festive tensions and may even get you out of the washing up!

So enjoy the festive season whatever it holds for you and if all else fails then give me a call in the New Year and I will help to get you back in shape.  Melanie Simcock,  www.mjsnutrition.co.uk, melanie.simcock@btinternet.com, 01483 300368.

Experiments with coconut

CoconutI’m just back from the Oceania exhibition at the Royal Academy and was struck by how many of the 200 artefacts from the Pacific on display used coconut fibre as a material, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, our dedicated guest blogger and freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition, provides her advice and three scrumptious recipes.

The coconut, which is the seed of a tropical palm tree, might be the most complete plant on earth. Besides the fibre, it provides flesh, which can be processed into oil, flour and milk, and water which comes from the centre of the nut. Meanwhile, the blossom of the palm provides a sweetener in the form of coconut blossom nectar.

So, let’s celebrate the coconut palm with some healthy recipes that use no fewer than five of its edible products.

Coco green juice

As coconut water is rich in potassium and known for its hydration properties, this juice is a healthy post-exercise choice.

Serves one
Bag of kale (or other green leaves)
One pear, chopped
Half a cucumber, chopped
One inch root ginger, peeled and chopped
Coconut water
Pure pomegranate juice

Juice the kale, pear, cucumber and ginger. Top up with coconut water and a dash of pomegranate juice to boost the antioxidant content.

Pink coconut smoothie

Coconut milk is rich in iron and zinc and adds a creamy, luxurious touch to this smoothie

Serves one
Coconut milk/coconut and almond milk
Carton of raspberries, strawberries or a mixture of the two
One tbsp. peanut butter
One tsp. matcha
Two tsps. cacao (or cacao and cinnamon) powder
Place berries in a blender/Nutribullet. Add the matcha, peanut butter and cacao. Top up with the coconut milk and blend.

Coconut biscuits

Coconut flour is pure coconut, derived from the flesh of the nut. It is higher in fibre and protein, and lower in carbohydrate than whole wheat flour. Coconut blossom nectar is classed as low glycaemic index (a value of 35, compared with 68 for white sugar).
I thought I’d need more than one go at getting these right. Substituting coconut flour for wheat flour is one challenge (it absorbs more liquid). Using chia seeds instead of eggs (a common vegan substitute), coconut blossom nectar instead of sugar and replacing butter with coconut oil pushes this recipe into unknown territory with respect to texture and flavour – the main issue being what quantities to use. I researched, but this is an original recipe, I promise. The flavour comes from the addition of the cacao plus cinnamon powder.

Makes 10 biscuits
Two tbsp. coconut flour
One tbsp. chia seeds
Two tbsp. coconut oil
One tbsp. cacao and cinnamon powder
One tbsp. coconut blossom nectar
Around 240ml boiling water
Heat the oven to 180°C. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and add the coconut oil. Then add the boiling water and mix well. Leave for about 10 minutes to melt the coconut oil and let the chia seeds create a gel. Make cookies from balls of the resulting dough, and cook in the oven on a greased baking sheet for around 25 minutes.
Next month. Festive special!

Experiments without potatoes

root vegsYou can replace potatoes with other root vegetables that contain more vitamins and fibre, without sacrificing any of the comfort or taste element. The recipes below would work well at a Halloween/Bonfire supper or party if you’re planning late autumnal events. Also, I’ve been struck by the number of food delivery bikes in my area over the last few months. Look, I know we’re all busy, but I personally think we’d all be a lot healthier in the long term if we invested a bit of time in learning to cook from scratch, so we know what’s in our food.

Our guest blogger, Dr Susan Aldridge,  freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition, provides her advice and three scrumptious recipes.

Decided to rebel a bit against the food delivery people (we all know who they are…) and made my first two recipes slightly complicated (for me!) in that they involve stages and sauces.

Fish and mushroom pie with cauliflower mash
Serves four

One onion, finely chopped
One pint full cream milk
One cauliflower, sliced into florets
One 400g tin butter beans, drained
Three hard-boiled eggs, chopped
Two smoked haddock fillets
Two cod fillets
One pack prawns
300g mushrooms, sliced and fried in butter
One tbsp. fish sauce
Chopped parsley
35g butter
Two tbsp. flour
Grated cheese
Sliced tomatoes
One tbsp. mustard

Preheat oven to 200˚C. Heat the onion in the milk with black pepper and herb salt to season. Simmer for 10 minutes and set aside. Measure out about 50ml for the mash. Meanwhile, place the fish in a frying pan, add the rest of the milk, a knob of butter and simmer for a few minutes, turning the fish part way through, until fish is tender. Flake the fish on a plate and set aside.

Now make a sauce by melting the butter, stirring in the flour to make a paste, Then, add the milk from the fish and stir till thick and smooth. Add the fish sauce and the parsley.
Assemble the fish pie by mixing the flaked fish, hard-boiled eggs and mushrooms. Cover with the sauce. Leave to cool while you make the mash.

Boil the cauliflower till tender and mix with the butter beans, reserved milk and mustard. Use a hand masher to make a smooth mixture. Now add the mash to the cooled fish to make a layer, and top with sliced tomatoes and grated cheese. Bake for around 30 mins, till the top is browned. Serve with two green vegetables (we had tender stem broccoli and green beans).

Vegetarian/vegan shepherd’s pie with root veg mash

Turnips, swedes and carrots are all significantly lower in carbs than potatoes and parsnips contain somewhat less carb. So, the mixtures give you a mash that is lower carb and higher fibre than regular mash and also contributes to your fruit and veg intake, which potatoes do not.

Serves three to four
Two onions, chopped
100g lentils
Two 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp. tomato puree
1 tbsp. mixed herbs
1 tbsp. cinnamon
Two carrots, chopped
One small turnip, chopped
One small swede, chopped
One parsnip, chopped
Flax seed or olive oil/butter/cream/milk

Make the lentil filling by frying the onions in coconut oil until soft, then add lentils. Heat through and add tomatoes, tomato puree, herbs and cinnamon. Cook until lentils are soft (around 20–30 mins) and, in the meantime prepare the mash.
Boil the root vegetables till tender. Then add oil (for vegan version) or butter/cream/milk (vegetarian version) to add smoothness. Add extra flavour by stirring in mustard and/or marmite.

Cool the lentil mixture for 15 minutes or so, to ensure the mash doesn’t sink into it. Then add a thick layer of the mash, finish with sliced tomatoes (vegan version) and/or grated cheese (vegetarian version). Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes, until the top is brown. Serve with something green (eg stir fried spring greens or cabbage and shredded leek).

Sweet potato and beetroot chips with rosemary and spicy dip
Serves two

Two sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges
Two beetroot, sliced into chips
Olive oil
Rosemary, chopped
For the dip
Tub of quark (plain or flavoured – I used tomato and basil)
Tub of fresh chilli pesto

Heat the oven to 180˚C. Add the sweet potato chips to a bowl and toss with the rosemary and olive oil. Place on one half of a baking tray lined with foil in the oven. Meanwhile, toss the beetroot with rosemary and oil and place in the oven on the other half of the tray when the sweet potato has been cooking for around 15 minutes. Cook for a further 15 minutes till browned. Make the dip by mixing the quark and the pesto (multiple other combos are available of course – try cottage cheese, soy sauce and peanut butter, for instance).

Apologies for the length of the first two recipes. November’s recipes will be simpler!
Next month – experiments with coconut