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Deserts and sweet treats are one of the great pleasures at this time of year. Unfortunately most are packed with refined sugars and other ingredients, which are not great for our skin, our general health or our waistlines in excessive amounts. The good news is that you can enjoy deserts and stay healthy at the same time – yes really! Below are some recipes for healthy, nutritious deserts with health benefits for you and your skin!

Avocado & Chocolate Mousse

Avocado-Chocolate-Mousse

The avocado in this delicious chocolate mousse is rich in vitamin E and healthy monounsaturated fats, which help your skin retain moisture. Chia seeds provide more essential fats, protective antioxidants and minerals. Cocoa has stress relieving benefits and can also improve skin condition, as well as being an amazing source of antioxidants. Natural sugars are provided by the dates and banana, so there is no need for adding any sugar or sweetener.

Serves 4

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 3 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 4 medjool dates (remove stones)
  • A pinch of pink salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • Raspberries or other berries to decorate
  1. Simply peel the avocado and banana, discarding the stone of the avocado, and chop into chunks
  2. Add along with all the other ingredients (except berries) and blend everything together until smooth and creamy
  3. Add water to thin to desired consistency
  4. Pour into small bowls or ramekins and decorate with berries

 

 

Poached Winter Fruits with Cashew Cream

Poached-Winter-Fruits-with-Cashew-Cream

Cashew nuts are another brilliant source of vitamin E and healthy fats, along with minerals zinc, iron and magnesium, for an energy boost. Soaking nuts in water makes them easier to digest and the nutrients become more available to the body. The different fruits provide vitamin c for collagen formation and to help ward off winter sniffles, along with plenty of fibre for healthy digestion. Cinnamon helps balance blood sugar.

Serves 4

  • 2 pears, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
  • 8 Dried apricots
  • 8 Dried prunes
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 4 cloves
  • Juice of 1 orange and zest of ½ the orange
  • 100g cashew nuts
  • 2 tsp vanilla powder
  1. Soak the cashew nuts in a bowl of filtered water for 30 mins to an hour, depending on how much time you have
  2. Meanwhile prepare the fruit by adding the pears, dried fruits, spices, orange juice and zest to a pan with about 2 tbsp water. Cover and cook gently until the pears are soft, about 15-20 mins. Remove the lid and reduce the liquid until it is thick and syrupy.
  3. Remove the cashews from the water but reserve the liquid, add to a hand blender with the vanilla powder and 1-2 tbsp of the reserved water. Blend until smooth, adding more water as necessary until you have a thick ‘cream’.
  4. Serve the fruits warm in bowls, removing the spices first, with a generous dollop of the cashew cream.

 

Banana Nice-cream

 Banana-Nice-cream

This is a wonderful, healthy, dairy-free alternative to conventional ice cream and ridiculously easy to make! It is also free from sugar and the bananas are a fantastic source of potassium, vitamin B6, magnesium and vitamin C. Cinnamon is optional but makes the nice-cream and bit more festive as well as helping to balance blood sugar levels. This goes well with Christmas pudding, anything else you would have ice cream with, or simply on its own topped with nuts. You can even have it for breakfast, I love it on buckwheat pancakes drizzled with raw chocolate sauce!

Serves 2

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1-2 tbsp almond milk
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon (optional)
  1. Peel and slice the bananas, place in a Tupperware container and put in the feezer overnight
  2. The next morning, remove from freezer, add to a blender with a splash of almond milk and the cinnamon if using, and blend until smooth.
  3. Serve and enjoy!

 


 

Sugar-Free Spelt Carrot Cake

Spelt is an ancient variety of wheat, higher in nutrients and lower in gluten, which is the protein some people find difficult to digest. Spelt is high in fibre, a good source of protein and rich in minerals and vitamin B3. It is great for bread making and general baking and can be used in place of wholemeal flour in most recipes. The carrots in this cake are a brilliant source of the antioxidant and skin protector beta-carotene, also great for the immune system and healthy eyes. Pecan nuts provide healthy fats, zinc, manganese and vitamin B1.

Cake

  • 150g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp pink salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 180g grated carrot
  • 1 very ripe banana, chopped
  • 50g pecan nuts, chopped
  • 50g plump raisins and/or sultanas

Topping (optional)

  • 4 tbsp cream cheese, tofu cream cheese or thick coconut yogurt
  • 1 tbsp fresh orange juice (omit if using coconut yoghurt)
  • grated rind of ½ orange
  • pecan halves to decorate

Sugar-Free-Spelt-Carrot-Cake

  1. Mix the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, and spices together in a bowl
  2. Stir in the eggs and oil and mix thoroughly
  3. Add the carrot, banana, nuts and raisins and mix again
  4. Spoon into a cake tin, greased and lined with baking paper and level the surface
  5. Bake for 45-55 minutes at 190°C, until golden and firm to the touch and you can pull out knife from the center, clean
  6. To make the topping mix ingredients together and spread over the cake once cooled. Place pecan halves on top to decorate

 

Baked bananas with vanilla

Almonds are another great source of skin feeding vitamin E, along with healthy fats, vitamin B2 and magnesium. Coconut yoghurt is an amazing dairy-free alternative to conventional yoghurt but still contains those beneficial live bacteria to help keep your digestive system healthy. It is available in most supermarkets now, so try it if you haven’t already!

Baked-bananas-with-vanilla-

  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 2 tsp honey, maple syrup or a pinch of stevia
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • flaked almonds, toasted
  • Coconut yoghurt or organic Greek yoghurt to serve
  1. Place the bananas in foil, drizzle the honey on top, and the vanilla and lemon juice. Close the foil, seal well.
  2. Bake for 5-10 minutes at 180°C
  3. Meanwhile gently toast the flaked almonds in a pan, being careful not to burn them
  4. Remove the bananas from the foil and transfer to a serving plate, scatter over the almonds and serve with a generous dollop of yoghurt

 

 

References
Wirtz PH1, von Känel R2, Meister RE2, Arpagaus A3, Treichler S3, Kuebler U3, Huber S3, Ehlert U3.Dark chocolate intake buffers stress reactivity in humans. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014 Jun 3;63(21):2297-9.
Yoon HS1, Kim JR2, Park GY3, Kim JE2, Lee DH4, Lee K5, Chung JH6. Cocoa Flavanol Supplementation Influences Skin Conditions of Photo-Aged Women: A 24-Week Double-Blind, Randomized, Controlled Trial. J Nutr. 2015 Nov 18. pii: jn217711.

survive-the-festive-seasonThe party season is here and although this is a wonderful time of year, it can take its toll on your health and your waistline. The combination of overindulgence, late nights and less exercise can leave us feeling sluggish, bloated and out of shape. None of us wants to start the new year feeling run down and unable to fit into our jeans, so this week I am going to advise you how to sail through the party season without the unwanted consequences come January.

 

christmas-dietAvoid December Weight Gain

Firstly, designate yourself a couple of the most special occasions such as Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, when you will simply enjoy yourself and have whatever you want. By limiting yourself to a couple of days, instead of going overboard for the entire period, there is a limit to how much weight you’ll gain. Parties and dinners are frequent in December, so it’s important to make healthier choices at the rest, to avoid that dreaded ‘January moment’ when none of your clothes fit.

On the day of a party, you might be tempted to restrict yourself during the day, so that you can ‘go for it’ when you get there and feel less guilty. This however, is exactly the opposite of what you should do and will usually result in you consuming more calories overall in the end. Instead, have a filling breakfast such as poached eggs on rye toast or porridge with fruit and nuts, and a balanced lunch including slow-releasing carbs like quinoa or oatcakes, protein such as fish, chicken or lentils and some veg or salad. Finally, have a small snack such as an apple or 10 almonds just before you go out. All of this will balance your appetite and your blood sugar levels, meaning you feel in control and are much less likely to overeat or grab the wrong things from the buffet.

If you want to ‘compensate’ for eating slightly more than usual, it is in fact far better to do so the next day. You should naturally feel like eating less anyway due to the body’s inbuilt energy-balance mechanisms, so it will be much easier. You can find my “Day After Plan” for when you have over-indulged and are feeling full and bloated here. This will get you back on track quickly and feeling back to normal the following day.

 

What to Eat & Not Eat

 

  • Steer clear of refined carbohydrates like pastry, French fries, bread and white rice. These provide ‘empty calories’ (energy without many nutrients).

  • Seafood is a great source of protein, omega-3 fats, selenium and zinc so fill up on prawns, salmon, smoked salmon and other fish and shellfish.

  • If you are going to a restaurant, read my post here for tips on what to order.

  • Fill up on salad and vegetables – fill half your plate with salad and veg, especially green veg.

 

And to Drink?

 cheers-christmas

Many of us drink more in December, so it is especially important to be mindful of the safe upper limits of 2-3 units per day for women and 3-4 for men. With alcohol, once again, I would allow yourself a couple of key occasions to let your hair down and then stick to the following advice for the rest of the time.

  • Don’t start drinking until you start eating eat —if you are obliged to have a glass of bubbly straight away, just sip it very slowly. Being tipsy on an empty stomach is your willpower’s worst enemy!
  • Alternate alcoholic drinks with a glass of water
  • Avoid cocktails, which are packed with sugar and high in calories
  • Stick to wine or bubbly, avoid spirits and never mix your drinks
  • Ensure you have at least two alcohol free days per week

 

The Morning After

 christmas-morning-wake-up

The symptoms of a hangover are mainly down to dehydration, because alcohol is a potent diuretic, making you lose water (by going to the loo more!). Rehydration is therefore essential to your recovery! Start your day with a cleansing hot water with lemon, then drink plenty of water throughout the day; coconut water is also an excellent re-hydrator. If your energy is flagging, sip on a Beauty & Go Vitality for an instant pick-me-up.

Don’t be tempted by that greasy fry up, it is not the answer and will make you feel even more sluggish. Instead stick to healthy carbs and protein and eat little and often to rebalance your blood sugar, which alcohol disrupts. Scrambled eggs with spinach and mushrooms or healthy buckwheat pancakes make great ‘morning after’ breakfasts. For more ideas, click here. You can also try a Beauty & Go Detox drink, which supports natural detoxification processes, and will help your liver to flush out the alcohol.

 

Stay Active

 walking-in-the-snow

Most people are less active during December compared to the rest of the year. Busy schedules mean that workouts fall to the wayside, cold weather makes outdoor activities less appealing and we tend to use the car, tube or bus more and walk less due to the same. If you can stay active the benefits include more energy, better sleep, reduced stress levels and you will be less likely to gain weight. Here are some tips:

  • Move your evening workout to the morning or lunchtime if your evenings are packed.
  • If you work out the rest of the year, fit in at least one workout per week to keep your fitness levels from dropping off too much.
  • If you can’t make it to the gym, find other ways to build activity into your day. Walking is the easiest and you can fit in short 15-minute bursts when you have time.
  • Use a pedometer or fitband to measure your steps. You are aiming for 10 thousand per day, which can burn an extra 400-500 calories.
  • Long walks with friends and family are lovely over the Christmas period. You can offset a few of the average 7000 calories reportedly consumed on the big day!

Your Skin

 winter-skin

Late nights, alcohol and a less healthy diet combined with the cold weather and central heating can take their toll on our skin at this time of year. Here are some tips for keeping your skin glowing throughout December and beyond:

  • Staying hydrated will help keep your skin from drying out, so drink up. You need 1.5-2 litres of fluids per day plus an extra glass for every alcoholic drink you have. Herbal and fruit teas count and are perfect in the cold weather. You can also make a hot version of ‘spa water’ such as hot water with slices of lemon and orange or my current favourite; hot water with apple slices and cinnamon sticks.
  • Moisturise your skin from within by including essential fats from foods like salmon, avocadoes, nuts and seeds every day. A daily Beauty & Go will provide collagen and hyaluronic acid, which both help to keep skin supple and elastic from the inside out.
  • Don’t forget your fruit and vegetables! At this time of year, canapés and other party foods can mean we miss out on our daily servings. However, you actually need the antioxidants even more to protect against damage from late nights, alcohol etc. Make an extra effort to include at least 5-7 servings and add an antioxidant boost with a Beauty & Go drink, which contains powerful MacroAntioxidants®.
  • Eat chocolate! A recent study found that cocoa helped improve skin condition and elasticity and reduced skin roughness and wrinkles in Korean women. Unfortunately the sugar in most chocolate bars will have the opposite effect, so stick to raw chocolate or cocoa.
  • If you wake up with tired, dull-looking skin, a Beauty & Go Vitality drink can instantly wake up both you and your skin. Beauty & Go Vitality contains energising ingredients such as guarana, ginseng, green tea and coenzyme Q10 to give you and your skin a much needed energy boost the morning after.

References
Yoon HS1, Kim JR2, Park GY3, Kim JE2, Lee DH4, Lee K5, Chung JH6. Cocoa Flavanol Supplementation Influences Skin Conditions of Photo-Aged Women: A 24-Week Double-Blind, Randomized, Controlled Trial. J Nutr. 2015 Nov 18. pii: jn217711.