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winter-recipes

It can be hard to stay healthy at this time of year, the cold weather can make stodgy food more appealing and special offers in all the supermarkets for unhealthy ‘winter comfort foods’ don’t help. However, you can still get that warm, comforting satisfaction from your food without compromising on health. There are some amazing winter foods in season at this time of year, so here are some recipes and inspiration for how to incorporate these into your healthy winter diet.

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels-Sprouts

Hated by some, these little green beauties are vastly underrated in culinary and health terms and are sadly only eaten on Christmas day by many of us. They are however versatile and work well in salads, stir-fries and casseroles as well as the usual side dish. My favourite way to eat them is by roasting them, which changes the flavour and texture quite a bit, so anyone that doesn’t like them boiled may be surprised.

Sprouts are a member of the Brassica family, along with cabbage and broccoli. Vegetables in this family are cleansing to the body, as they contain compounds that stimulate detoxification pathways in the liver. They are also a source of natural plant compounds that protect us against disease. Brussels sprouts are a good source of vitamins A and C, iron, potassium and fibre.

TIP

When choosing sprouts they should be firm and compact and should not have a strong smell – when they do this means they are past their best. Those sold on the stalk, should stay fresh for longer. Cutting crosses in the bases of sprouts is common practice, but is actually unnecessary, so don’t waste your time doing this!

Roast-Brussels-Sprouts-with-Chestnuts

Roast Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts

Serves 4 as a side dish

  • 500g Brussels sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 100g vacuum packed chestnuts
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Simply put the sprouts, oil and seasoning in a roasting dish, mix and roast at 200°C for 35 mins, adding the chestnuts and lemon zest halfway through and tossing again thoroughly.

FACT:

Whether or not you like sprouts, broccoli and cabbage is partly genetic. There is a gene that makes some people dislike the bitter chemical PTC in these foods and this gene has been traced back to Neanderthals!

FACT:

Did you know that children actually have an inbuilt fear of new foods called ‘neophobia’? It is an evolutionary mechanism to protect us from being poisoned. The good news is that it can be overcome by repeatedly tasting a food, it takes an average of 7 times. So the message with sprouts and other veg is perseverance!

Cranberries

Cranberries

Cranberries are in the same family as the other berries and pack the same nutritional punch, being a rich source of vitamin C and antioxidants. This means they are great for protecting the skin and body against free-radical damage, disease and ageing. Their high vitamin C content also means they are good for supporting the immune system to help ward off winter colds. Cranberries are also a good source of the mineral manganese, needed for healthy bones, blood sugar regulation and brain function.

Cranberries are well known for their ability help treat and prevent urinary tract infections, which they do by virtue of the proanthocyadins they contain. These natural plant compounds prevent bacteria from attaching to the wall of the bladder, reducing their ability to cause an infection.

Cranberries work really well in salads and a few dried cranberries add a delicious sweetness to couscous and quinoa dishes. They also work well in baking, or on your porridge or muesli.

TIP

Watch out for cranberry juice drinks as most are loaded with sugar to combat the natural tartness of the berries. Instead opt for fresh cranberries if you can find them, or dried cranberries, which should be eaten in small servings due to their high content of natural fruit sugars.

Sweet Spiced Quinoa Porridge

Serves One

  • 40g quinoa
  • A tiny pinch of pink salt
  • 200ml coconut or almond milk
  • 1 tbsp dried cranberries
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • A grating of nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp pistachio nuts or flaked almonds
  1. Put everything in a pan except the nuts and cook for around 15 minutes, stirring continuously
  2. Top with the nuts and a drizzle of honey if liked

Sweet-Spiced-Quinoa-Porridge

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is an amazingly versatile vegetable that can be used for everything from cauliflower rice to purée and pizza bases. Roasting cauliflower also really brings out its flavour, simply drizzle with olive oil, season and add a grating of nutmeg or some garlic and lemon and roast for 25-30 minutes.

Cauliflower is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K and several B vitamins. It is low in fat, calories and carbohydrate, so can bring the energy content of a meal down when you substitute it for rice or mash potatoes. Cauliflower is another brassica, containing those beneficial protective compounds.

FACT:

As well as the usual white variety, cauliflower also comes in green, orange and purple! Purple cauli is a rich source of protective antioxidants also present in berries and red wine.

Cauliflower-pizza

Cauliflower Pizza Recipe

Makes one pizza

  • 1 cauliflower head
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 100g ground almonds
  • Salt and pepper

Tomato Sauce

  • ½ tin of tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Toppings

  • Black olives
  • Sun blush tomatoes
  • Spinach, wilted
  • Vegan pesto (pine nuts, basil, nutritional yeast, olive oil, salt)

Optional:

  • buffalo burrata

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan
  2. Remove the leaves and stalk of the cauliflower, cut into chunks and blitz in a blender until it resembles a course flour.
  3. Mix with the other ingredients to form a wet sticky dough.
  4. Line a baking tray with parchment and grease with oil, transfer the mixture to the tray and shape into a pizza base shape using a spoon and your hands. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown
  5. Meanwhile make the tomato sauce by chopping the garlic clove, sautéing in a little oil for a couple of minutes until soft, adding the tomatoes, and some seasoning and leaving to simmer and reduce for 15-20 minutes.
  6. When the base is cooked, spread the tomato sauce on and then arrange the olives, sun blush tomatoes and wilted spinach on top of this. Return to the oven for about 5 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile blitz the pesto ingredients in a hand blender, then remove the pizza from the oven and drizzle with the pesto, and torn burrata if using it.

Celeriac

Celeriac

Not the prettiest looking vegetable, but it has inner beauty! Celeriac is a relative of celery and a good source of vitamins C and K, potassium and phosphorous. Like cauliflower, it can also be substituted for potatoes to make lower calorie and more nutrient rich mash and fries, it can even be cut into thin slices and used in place of pasta in a veggie lasagne. Celeriac fries are delicious and go well with fish, simply cut into thin strips and roast in olive oil with thyme, honey and seasoning.

TIP

Choose medium sized, firm celeriac and allow for about 25% wastage by the time you have peeled it. Stored in a plastic bag in the fridge they will keep for two or three weeks, but like all vegetables the fresher you eat them, the higher their nutrient content will be.

Parsnip and Celeriac Soup

Serves 2

  • 200g celeriac, peeled and cubed
  • 150g parsnips, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 500ml vegetable bouillon
  • Optional garnish: parsley, walnuts
  1. Toss the parsnips and celeriac in the olive oil, season and roast in the oven at 200°C until soft, around 30 minutes.
  2. Transfer to a pan along with the vegetable stock and cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Blend until smooth.
  4. Top with chopped parsley and toasted walnuts

Parsnip-and-Celeriac-Soup

 

Best of the Rest in Season Now

Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Rich in antioxidants and super high in nutrients. For a fast supper, stir-fry with garlic, chilli, olive oil and 1 or 2 finely chopped anchovies (omit if vegetarian) and stir through wholemeal pasta. Drizzle with a little olive oil and add grated Parmesan if liked.

Chicory

Great for digestion and a good source of vitamins A and K and calcium. Make a winter salad with chicory leaves, toasted walnuts, sliced pear, pecorino shavings and a honey and mustard dressing.

Parsnips

A good source of vitamin C, fibre, folate and potassium. Try them in the soup recipe above or in a medley of roasted roots as a filling, hearty side.

Blood Oranges

Catch them while you can, these beauties are in season for a very short time right about now. Their red colour is indicative of beneficial antioxidants called anthocyanins. Try some freshly squeezed with your weekend breakfast.

Beauty & Go drinks contain plenty of great winter fruits and vegetables to feed your skin, including berries and pomegranate. Include one to three per day as part of your winter health and beauty regime.

new-year-decalogue-beauty-and-go2

Get back on track after the excesses of the past few weeks by following my top ten ‘commandments’ below to help you regain your health, energy and figure.

 

fad-diet1. Thou shalt not be tempted by the latest fad diet

While the promise of rapid weight loss can be especially alluring at this time of year, fad diets simply don’t work and research shows that people regain the weight, and often a bit extra!

2. Thou shalt eat regularly

Regular eating is essential for balancing your appetite, energy levels and even your mood. Skipping meals doesn’t help you lose weight in the long run; people who eat breakfast every day and eat regularly are slimmer and healthier than those with irregular eating patterns.

fit3. Thou shalt be active

A sedentary lifestyle was in the headlines last year for being on a par with smoking and poor diet as a threat to health. It’s not just about sweating it out at the gym, it’s about being active over the day as well and avoiding long periods of sitting.

4. Thou salt avoid empty calories

Alcohol, fizzy drinks, sugar and refined foods such as white bread provide pure energy with little or no nutrients, adding nothing beneficial to your diet, just lots of calories.

salmon5. Thou shalt not cut carbs

We need healthy carbs for energy, to feel full and for the many beneficial nutrients they contain. Avoid the white ones but include oats, sweet potato, quinoa, lentils, beans and whole-grains every day especially at breakfast and lunch to give you energy for the day

6. Thou shalt eat less meat

Another big headline of 2015 was that processed meats and too much red meat may increase the risk of disease. Avoid processed meats like bacon, sausages, ham, salami and limit good quality red meat such as lean steak to once or twice per week. Save money, your health and the planet in the process! Eat more plant proteins instead such as nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, chickpeas, tofu and quinoa

pear-raspberry7. Thou shalt limit processed foods

Processed foods contribute 80% of the total salt we eat and are also packed with sugar, unhealthy fats and chemical additives, plus processing usually removes beneficial nutrients. The less you eat the better, instead base your diet on whole-foods.

8. Thou shalt eat 7 fruit and vegetables per day

5 was always intended to be the minimum, 7 is the optimum for health and happiness and even more is fine! Fruit and veg are low in fat and calories, so help with weight loss, high in antioxidants to protect your skin, fibre for digestion and a host of disease fighting vitamins and minerals. Eat the rainbow as each colour provides different nutrients.

daily-beauty-and-go9. Thou shalt drink 2 litres of water per day

Drinking 500ml of water before meals has been shown to reduce the amount eaten and lead to weight loss. Water also hydrates the body and skin and dehydration is the quickest route to dull skin, low energy and lack of concentration.

10. Thou shalt enjoy a daily Beauty & Go

Include 1-3 daily as part of your health and beauty regime, to provide skin plumping collagen and MacroAntioxidants, which protect you, and your skin against free radical damage and ageing. The Detox drink will help you and your skin recover from festive excesses, whilst Vitality will give you an energy boost when you need it.

postres-sanos

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.

winter-blues

Winter is most definitely on its way and for some of us the dark days and cold weather are reflected in our mood at this time of year. In fact, many of us in the UK report experiencing some degree of the ‘Winter Blues’.

Symptoms include less energy, lack of motivation, low mood and the urge to stay in bed and hide away. This is due to the fact that as animals, we are genetically programmed to go into hibernation mode at this time of year, so it is completely natural to feel like slowing down. Some simple lifestyle ‘tweaks’ can be all it takes to re-energise and lift you up again. Here is my advice on how to look after your mind, body and soul, to get you bouncing through to spring.

Exercise is Key!

winter-exercice

A 35-minute brisk walk five times per week has been shown in studies to help with mild to moderate depression. The great thing is you can squeeze this into your lunch hour so don’t have to make time for more time-consuming activities like the gym. Exercising in the middle of the day (or first thing in the morning) and being outside are also more beneficial, due to the exposure to natural daylight.

Any form of cardiovascular exercise gets your heart pumping, improves circulation, which helps prevent cold hands and feet and will also raise your core body temperature. It also releases happy brain chemicals, which is why it has this amazing mood-lifting effect.

When it is raining or just too miserable to go outside, don’t use this as an excuse to ditch the exercise! Instead, try exercising at home if you simply can’t face leaving the house – there are plenty of workout videos on-line. Another option is to try hot yoga or hot Pilates as a guaranteed way to warm up fast!

stay-connected2

Stay Connected

Don’t be tempted to hide away, making the effort to go out and see people will increase your sense of connectedness and well being. Research has proven that people with stronger social networks are healthier and happier, so arrange a trip to the cinema, go ice-skating or invite friends round for some home-cooked, warming food.

Taking up a new hobby has been shown to help people with seasonal depression by providing both a distraction and enjoyment. It could be something crafty like knitting, something musical such as singing or playing an instrument or something active such as a dance class.

Eat Well

It may be tempting to over-indulge in comfort foods at this time of year, but being mindful of what you eat is especially important during winter to help your immune system fight off bugs. It will also help prevent that dreaded feeling in January when you realise your jeans won’t do up. Instead of using winter as an excuse to fill up on junk food, indulge in healthy, warming, comfort foods like soups, stews and porridge. See my Autumn Foods post for some recipe inspiration (Link to Autumn foods and recipes).

Fill Up on Healthy Carbs

Most of us crave carbohydrates more when it’s cold, because we need the energy they provide to help keep us warm. Include healthy carbohydrate foods with all your meals, especially at breakfast and lunch to fuel you through your day. For breakfast porridge is my ‘go-to’ winter warmer at this time of year, I love experimenting with different delicious toppings. My current favourites are fig and chocolate (Recipe here) and coconut, banana and almond butter. Other healthy carbs to include are rye bread, buckwheat, sugar-free mueslis and granolas, oatcakes, sweet potatoes, barley, quinoa, pulses, wholegrain rice and wild rice.

fig-porridge2

The Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D is essential for helping ward off depression and keeping our immune systems strong. 90% of our total vitamin D comes from the action of sunlight on the skin, but unfortunately from October to April, the light is not of the correct wavelength for stimulating any vitamin D production! If we build up adequate stores during the rest of the year it should carry us through, but many of us don’t and become deficient during winter. It is therefore advisable to include plenty of oily fish in your diet, which are the best dietary source of vitamin D. Mushrooms, eggs, some fortified foods, soya and dairy also contain small amounts. You could also include a supplement during winter as an ‘insurance policy’, especially if you’ve had limited sun exposure for any reason or have dark skin.

Raise the happy Serotonin

Eating foods containing the amino acid tryptophan in combination with healthy carbs (see above) will help your body to produce the happy chemical serotonin. The best food sources of tryptophan are pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds, hazelnuts, almonds, spinach and other green leafy vegetables, chicken, turkey, tofu, bananas, avocado and lentils. Include some of these every day, especially in the evenings, as they will also aid restful sleep.

Your Environment

listen-music-drinking-winter

Your sense of smell is directly linked to the limbic system in the brain, which affects emotions, so you can use scents to lift your mood. Citrus smells like orange and lime are uplifting, while ginger and basil are energising. Clary sage is great for soothing the nerves and aiding deep and restful sleep.

Music is another great way to lift your mood and research backs this up, finding that music can actually raise levels of the reward chemical dopamine in the brain by 9%. Dedicate yourself a few minutes every day. Put on your favorite music and relax while enjoying your daily Beauty & Go!

Some people find that light therapy can really help at this time of year. You can use a light box emitting bright light during the day to boost energy and mood. Alarm clocks are also available which simulate sunrise, making getting up when it’s still dark a little easier.

Research has found that staying warm can reduce the winter blues by a whopping 50%! Eating warm foods, plenty of hot drinks and wearing warm clothes will all help.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

If your symptoms are more serious or are getting in the way of leading a normal life, it could be a sign of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, a type of seasonal depression thought to affect about 2 million people in the UK. If you think you might have SAD or are feeling depressed, please go and see your GP for advice.