Days like Easter are special and stay in children's memories forever. Eating things like Easter eggs and other treats are such a big part of the day that, personally, I don't worry about it at all. However, it can all easily (!) get a bit out of hand so it can be very helpful to have some healthier, lower sugar alternatives or additions. These recipes are also great for children, like my own son, who can't eat regular shop bought treats due to being dairy or gluten intolerant. These are my favourite healthy options - I love all of them because kids love them, they are pretty good for you and most importantly are simple and don't require too much fathing around - Nobody has time for that on busy family days like Easter!
Chocolate Peanut butter nests
One of my favourite treats from childhood was chocolate rice krispie treats.
This version here from "Joy Food Sunshine" is gluten and dairy free and has a lot less sugar than the ones I used to eat. They also have a good amount of protein in there to help minimise the sugar rush.
These are also perfect for dairy free children as she uses coconut oil as the butter substitute rather than margarine. If you wanted to keep these vegan you could add jelly beans as the 'eggs'. My son is ok with a little bit of dairy so I just use Cadbury's mini eggs.
Easter Egg Lunch Hunt
This recipe here from Glue Stick Blog is brilliant as you can pick whatever foods you know your child will like. You can also try adding some new foods that they might not notice amongst the sea of colour! Using the little plastic eggs as a 'hunt' is a great idea.
Fruit and vegetable Easter Bunny
Easter Bunny Trail Mix
I love this recipe here from My Fussy Eater. It is such a simple idea but one that children will love. You can use any mixture of foods you have to hand and and it is the perfect recipe to get children involved too as they love mixing things up like this.
Fruit cup Easter Chicks
Finally I love this ingenious idea here from the blog No Biggie.
One of those ideas that would be impossible to turn into a Pinterest Fail even for non creative types like myself!
Takes seconds and you have a very cute snack on your hands that would also work for breakfast or lunch too.
In the Paleo diet there is considerable focus on grass-fed meat. This is because grass-fed meat contains a higher level of nutrients and a healthier ratio of healthy fats compared to regular produce. It is also more sustainable and environmentally-friendly.
However, whilst there are many farming methods in Scotland and across the UK, the labelling laws are not yet clear on this issue. Only a few farms sell grass-fed or pasture-fed meat that meet the requirements of the Pasture Fed Livestock Association and can label their products 'pasture for life'. I have yet to see this label in supermarkets so currently I just try and buy organic meat when possible.
However, if you have any significant health problems, are trying to heal an auto-immune condition or just want to take your health to the next level then it is possible to buy grass-fed meat in Scotland. One of the best ways is to go straight to the suppliers via Farms and Farm shops. There is a list on my website here under Paleo Resources. If you can buy meat in bulk and then freeze it, that can also be highly cost effective too. Another good source is to visit your local Farmers market. A list of markets are available here to browse through. Again, Farmers' markets can be a lot more affordable than you might think as they cut out the middle man.
Personally, I wouldn't let not being able to buy grass fed meat put you off starting a Paleo diet. You can still have an extremely healthy diet without it. Switching to a Paleo diet from a standard Scottish diet will immediately (and vastly!) increase the amount of nutrients you eat, reduce inflammation, and lead to good gut health which we increasingly know is vital for well-being.
If you just want to focus on buying organic meat, my recent blog post here details my experience of shopping for organic meat in supermarkets. There also seems to be healthier meat products continually coming on to the market. Marks and Spencer's now sell nitrate- free bacon and the Northern Irish company Finnebrogue sell nitrate-free ham, bacon and sausages in some Scottish Sainsburys stores. I think these items will become more common place as consumers become more aware of the links between nitrates in meat and some serious health conditions.
Whilst I try to buy organic, my diet most definitely contains non organic meat (more trips to fast food places with my young son than I care to admit!) and I don't fret about it - I just try and buy the best meat I can depending on availability and cost. It is also important to say that whilst meat seems to be intrinsically (and weirdly) connected with the Paleo diet in mainstream media, in reality it can play a relatively small role in the Paleo diet.
Whilst proteins, such as meat, fish and eggs, are important for health, the bulk of our meals should ideally contain as wide a range of plant based foods as possible. A good rule of thumb is to have at least half your plate with vegetables or salads and to include approximately a palm sized amount of protein (or a quarter of your plate). The remaining quarter can be made up of healthy fats and healthy carbohydrates such as starchy vegetables or fruit.
I hope this helps you find the foods you want to eat. I would love to hear if you have found any other good sources of quality meat in Scotland or how you include other good sources of protein too. Feel free to comment in the section below,
Shopping for a Paleo diet and buying fresh, unprocessed food should, in theory, be a doddle. However, it can sometimes be a bit more challenging than it first appears. Whilst fruit and vegetables are easy to find, shopping for other ingredients isn't always straightforward.
In order to get all you need (and at a reasonable price) you do sometimes have to shop around. I haven't, as yet, found a one stop shop for everything. I do a lot of schlepping around from shop to shop so I thought I would share what I have learnt. This is, of course, highly subjective and doesn't cover all supermarkets (I don't go to Lidl or Asda very often for example) but it may help point you in the right direction and save you some journeys.
I try and get organic produce whenever I can although this is not always possible nor is it affordable. I therefore try and focus on food which I think most benefit sfrom being organic. Meat and meat and dairy produce are at the top of my list. If you could see my fridge you would see that I don't always manage this at all but I try and do what I can!
In my experience, Tesco is the best supermarket for good quality organic meat. I can normally get organic chicken breasts, beef, minced beef and pork fairly easily. Tesco is also good for frozen wild fish such as their wild salmon fillets. They also stock a pretty good range of organic fruit andvegetables too. I normally manage to get at least half the items want as organic produce. They also are good for organic nuts and seeds and items such as tinned tomatoes. This does depend on size and locality of the store but my overall impression is that you can get a lot of what you need in Tesco.
I like a lot of Sainsbury's food, especially their huge free-from range, but I have found them to be surprisingly poor in terms of organic meat and wild fish. However, they do have some items that make it worth a visit to stock up. They are currently the only supermarket that stocks Helen Browning organic sausages which have the kid-friendly appeal of cooking in five minutes! Sainsburys are also currently the only stockist of Finnebrogue nitrate free 'Naked' ham and bacon. Nitrates in processed meat have been linked to some serious health issues so I think these products are worth the extra journey when possible. Sainsburys also stock a very reasonably priced range of organic low sulphate wine that you don't tend to see elsewhere so they definitely deserve kudos for still being ahead of the game in some areas!
Morrisons do have a small range of organic meat and it is certainly a lot cheaper for similar quality to Tescos but I only tend to see organic chicken there. It is worth buying it and freezing if you spy any. Morrisons also do really good gluten-free meatballs and sausages. They are not organic but it feels a good compromise. They have some organic fruit and vegetables but not nearly as much as Tescos. They do however sometimes have their own brand organic tomato sauces which are delicious. My local Morrison's has also really upped their game when it comes to free-from products. They also stock some items that you normally only see in health food shops such as protein powders and high-quality vitamins.
At the other end of the price scale, Waitrose has a similar range of organic meat and other produce when compared to Tesco but it does seem a lot more expensive. They do however stock organic meatballs and a big range of organic sausages,many of which have a high meat percentage and fewer additives than other brands. Waitrose also sometimes stock organic cold sliced meats such as chicken which I have yet to see anywhere else.
Aldi (and Lidl too) is really good if you are trying to cut costs on fruit and vegetables which are such a big part of a Paleo diet. The prices are excellent and they do have some organic produce too. The fresh food sometimes doesn't last as long as other supermarkets but if you are happy to go in more frequently it is fine. They are also brilliant for other items such as really good quality olive oil, coconut oil and nuts and seeds. They also have a good range of frozen fruit plus paleo friendly fruit and nut bars and small boxes of dried fruit, nuts and seeds. I have never seen organic meat there but some of the fish seems good quality and again, good value.
Last but not least, Costco is shopping heaven if you are eating a Paleo diet. Once you have got past the giant teddy bears (they seem to have set up camp there!) they have lots of items that are hard to get in other supermarkets such as coconut flour, coconut sugar, chia seeds, cacao nibs and protein powders. They also do huge bottles of maple syrup and big tubs of coconut oil. All of these tend to be cheaper than anywhere else. They are also good for nuts and seed mixes. Their meat is good value although it doesn't tend to be organic. However, they have fantastic salmon burgers made from wild Alaskan salmon that are worth going for the trip alone. America is about a decade ahead of us when it comes to the Paleo diet and it shows when you walk around here. They often have America products such as sweet potato crackers and sweet items made from coconut flour that you can't get anywhere else here.
I really hope you find this information useful. It is of course entirely based on my own experience shopping around Edinburgh but I do keep my eyes peeled and I have become a bit of a Ninja shopper in terms of spotting a Paleo bargain! I also know all the best coffee shops near every supermarket too in order to make the whole thing bearable. I would love to hear where you find good food in supermarkets near you too and if you have spotted any other Paleo gems out there too!
Christmas can be a bit of a tricky time if you are trying to eat healthily, or avoid certain types of foods such as sugar, gluten or dairy. Many of the traditional foods are no longer suitable for you and it can feel a bit isolating not joining in with everybody else. Thankfully, nowadays, there are lots of gluten and dairy free shop bought alternatives at Christmas so that is definitely an option for some types of Christmas foods but others are still, unfortunately, highly processed and sugary.
However, after doing research over the years, I have realised it is definitely possible to be part of Christmas and still eat well. An easy and healthy starter to have at Christmas is soup. Most people enjoy it and it has the added bonus that you can make it beforehand. It is also really easy to make it paleo friendly. I am going to make this delicious parsnip soup which is gluten and dairy free.
When it comes to the main course most of the traditional Christmas dinner is actually fairly healthy. The only parts that aren't paleo are the stuffing and bread sauce. This recipe for stuffing here uses almond flour as its base and is delicious as it is sweetened with some apples and dates. Bread sauce is pretty difficult to make paleo (the clue is in the name!) but if you still want to include it there are lots of good dairy free and gluten free recipes out there such as this one by Jamie Oliver.
If you are sugar free or just watching your sugar intake then pudding or dessert is where it obviously becomes difficult but, again, it is definitely possible. If you want to enjoy the traditional Christmas pudding then look no further than this amazing creation at Eighty20 Nutrition that is both Paleo and vegan. If you are able to have some chocolate then this incredibly easy pear and chocolate pudding is a good option as most of it is fruit and there are some health benefits if you use good quality dark chocolate. It would be delicious served with a dairy free n'ice cream made from fruit.
If you are on a sugar free diet and really don't want to eat any refined sugar but still want to have something to be part of the meal then a fruit based crumble such as this one is a delicious healthy option. The fact that it is easy to make and uses frozen berries is another bonus. If you want to just have fruit then this winter fruit salad is the one that I have made in the last two years and everyone loves it. It is perfect with a good dollop of cream. If you are not strictly sugar free then you can also round your evening off later with a paleo/vegan hot chocolate which is always such a festive treat when it is freezing outside.
I hope this helps you feel you can still join in with all the festivities and traditions around even if you can't always eat the same as everybody else. It isn't easy to eat healthily at this time of year as there are can be so many cultural triggers and pressure to over indulge (Hello Scotland!) but having healthy options that look 'normal' can definitely help. How you cope with that pressure at Hogmanay is a whole other question - I will get back to you if I ever solve that one!
I hope you have a merry Christmas and a very happy 2018,
This soup is such an easy and simple way to eat a ton of vegetables in one go. It has three different green vegetables that are from different vegetable groups and therefore contains an excellent range of nutrients.
Broccoli is part of the cruciferous family which means it contains high levels of folate, and vitamins C, E, K and iron. Cruciferous vegetables also contain glucosinolates that research indicates may inhibit cancer processes. Courgettes also contain vitamins C and K and, similarly to brocolli, also contain potassium which helps control blood pressure. Spinach is a highly nutrient dense plant and is particularly good for being a source of iron.
The rest of the ingredients are also very healthy. Onions tend to get over looked in the health world (poor onions!) but they contains vitamins A, B6, C and E, and also contain sodium, potassium and iron. Adding in the cashews gives you some protein and healthy fats for energy and alongside the almond milk, makes this very tasty and creamy. Who knew all this is going on in a simple bowl of soup? Enjoy!
This simple, tasty soup is one of those recipes that happened by chance.
I wanted to make tomato soup but only had chicken stock in so I just tried it out and hoped for the best. I wanted to add some cream to it too but didn't have any cream or coconut cream to hand. However, I spotted the jar of the cashews just sitting next to the blender so they got fired in too!
The blend of ingredients really works and you have a highly nutrient dense soup that contains two superfoods: namely tomatoes and garlic. Garlic is particularly good for this time of year as it is extremely beneficial for our immune system. The soup also has protein, healthy fats and creaminess from the cashews.
This soup is ready for you to enjoy in under ten minutes. I used my Nutribullet for speed so I made two large servings but if you have a bigger blender or processor then of course this recipe can easily be doubled or trebled. The soup also tastes good with my Paleo seeded herby bread which you can find here on my page of breakfast recipes.
I hope you enjoy the soup - please feel free to share it to anybody else you think might like it
The Paleo diet has a lot in common with many other healthy eating plans out there such as the Mediterranean diet and vother low carb diets. I see all these diets having far more similarities than differences and all of them focus on eating unprocessed healthy real food. Focusing on just that alone, arguably gets you a very long way towards good dietary well-being.
However, one key difference with the Paleo diet is that it recommends avoiding or limiting grains. This is because there is growing evidence of the link between components of grains called lectins and the damaging role they play in terms of gut health. Alongside this, there has lately been significant scientific advances in understanding how vitally important our gut health is for both mental and physical well-being. Gut inflammation is now linked with a huge range of serious chronic conditions. Two of the many advantages of a Paleo diet is that it is both naturally anti-inflammatory and it removes many of the substances that harm our gut lining in the first place.
This new knowledge is gaining ground and the Paleo diet seems to be increasingly popular in Scotland and across the rest of the UK. A lot of people message me or ask me about it and a very common question is 'but what you do have for breakfast'? I understand this as most 'normal' breakfasts are invariably grain based options such as toast, cereal and muesli. Breakfast can therefore seem like a massive change. However, as with all things in the Paleo diet, it really can be about focusing on simple healthy foods that thankfully (for me) don't require any tricky cooking skills.
For breakfast you are ideally wanting to have a good amount of protein and some healthy fats. The protein and fats will keep your blood sugar levels stable as you start the day and provide a slow release of energy to keep you full until lunchtime. You can also add in some carbs either from fruits or vegetables. Eating vegetables for breakfast can seem odd at first but you really do get used to it quickly.
Good sources of protein are eggs, chicken, protein powders and nuts and seeds. Fats can also come from nuts and seeds and from olive oil, coconuts, avocado and coconut yoghurt or Greek yogurt (if you tolerate dairy). Depending on what you choose to have, you can add sliced mixed greens or other vegetables to a savoury breakfast and fruit or fruit smoothies to sweeter tasting breakfasts.
An easy breakfast is the classic cooked breakfast with eggs and bacon and some cooked veggies. This gives you your protein and vegetables and fibre and cooking in coconut oil or butter/ghee adds healthy fats. Other options for breakfast are protein smoothies, Paleo pancakes made with nut flours and nut based granolas served with a smoothie bowl or a plant milk. You can also make 'bread' from nuts, seeds and eggs that taste so much better than than that sounds!
You can find all my Paleo breakfast recipes and ideas here and all of them are simple to make, delicious and good for you. There are also similar ingredients in many of the recipes so that makes it easier too. There is even a very healthy breakfast cake there for a weekend treat! In my world, breakfast isn't breakfast without good coffee too and thankfully there is also new evidence showing that in moderation this too is good for you. What is not to love? I hope you enjoy the recipes and please share to anybody you think would like them,
Trying to improve my child's health and transitioning to a Paleo diet can definitely be called a work in progress. I am therefore always looking for new ideas and research and recently read this article by the Paleo scientist Robb Wolf on how he feeds his own two daughters.
If you read the article you will see that it is undeniably impressive what he and his wife have achieved with their children but I was heartened to read that even he acknowledges that feeding children can be a case of "“what is best vs what can I pull off". For me, this is particularly so when it comes to packed lunches as there are so many factors that can limit what you can give them for school, not least their own preferences as to what they will eat when you are not there to cajole them!
A Paleo friendly lunch should ideally contain some protein, vegetables, healthy fats and carbohydrates from fruit or other starchy foods. As always I try to keep things simple and these are the foods I am currently including. I try to mix and match the foods each week to get a healthy balance. Most of thse my son will now (finally) eat but a few are definitely still ongoing options!
Proteins are reasonably straightforward for a Paleo lunch. Options I include are:
Vegetables can also be pretty straightforward to prepare too. Easy options (if your child eats them and trust me this didn't happen overnight!) are:
Carbohydrates is where it begins to get tricky. Carbohydrates are a contentious issue in themselves and there is an ongoing debate on how much carbohydrates we need, how often we should eat them and what are the best sources. I don't see any scientific consensus on this and I tend to side with researchers who argue there is not one definitive answer and we need to find our own optimal level. This, however, gets even trickier with children but I do feel that children need more than adults and therefore do need to be included at most meals. I do, however, agree with the Paleo stance that the ideal options for carbs are from fruit and non-grain starchy foods such as sweet potatoes and other starchy vegetables if possible.
Carbohydrates from fruit are relatively easy. Good school options to cover a range of nutrients are:
Broadening out to other non grain sources of carbohydrates is where I find it more challenging. I have yet to find a way to easily get these into my son's packed lunch so I normally give him some white rice or gluten free bread and I am currently trying to see if oatcakes are suitable for his gut health. However, there are some very good Paleo recipes out there and these are some of the ones that I am currently trying out.
Healthy fats are the final food group to ideally be included. Again, like carbohydrates, this is not always the easiest for a packed lunch. A good source are nuts or nut based recipes such as energy bars but many schools, understandably, do not allow children to bring nuts into the school. However, other options to try include:
Some recipes to try that include healthy fats include:
I hope these ideas are helpful. If you have any other suggestions I would love to hear them.
*I should also add that kidding myself that hoola hoops are potato based and therefore 'sort of paleo' has happened more times than I care to admit. This of course is my son's favourite lunch...
Good luck with the school year!
With every new type of meal I 'create' I am always aware that it really does stretch the bounds of credulity to call it a 'recipe' and my new 'recipe' for Paleo Bircher Museli is definitely no exeception to this! Food assembling would be a more apt term. However, whilst I am definitely a work in progress in terms of recipe creativity, I do know the nutrient density of food and I do know if it tastes good and this muesli definitely ticks both those boxes. It also takes no time to 'compile' which is perfect for all my fellow non morning people out there.
Bircher museli traditionally contains oats, nuts and apples soaked in apple juice or milk over night. However, if you haven't planned breakfast the night before (and mostly I don't) then this really is a delicious start to the day that can be made half asleep even before your coffee has kicked in. You just need apples, some coconut or Greek yoghurt and any type of granola, mixed nuts etc to go on top. If you are not strictly paleo then oats would also work as a topping too.
For this muesli I used chopped up organic braeburn apples, a tub of mango and coconut yoghurt and a nut based granola I had made earlier in the week. If you need to make granola in a hurry this gorgeous recipe for instant vanilla granola from Eighty 20 nutrition is really worth checking out. You can also add any additional toppings such as cacao nibs, chia seeds, goji berries or dark chocolate chips.
Apples contain a range of nutrients and phytochemicals including quercetin in the peel which are important for brain health. They also contain polyphenols which help stabilise blood sugar which is always particularly important at breakfast time. The protein in the nuts and coconut yoghurt also help blood sugar control and both contain healthy fats for brain health, skin health and for helping to keep you full until lunchtime. If you want to add further protein and nutrients you can also stir in a teaspoon or two of collagen hydrolysate as this doesn't alter the taste at all.
I really like the crunchiness of this muesli but you could of course switch it around and soak the granola and apple in apple juice or any type of milk overnight and then add the yoghurt in the morning. I haven't tried it but I think this muesli would also work really well with seasonal summer fruits such as peaches or nectarines.
I hope you enjoy this speediest, easiest and healthiest of breakfasts that is probably as quick as making toast but so much better for you!
In many ways the Paleo diet, when followed reasonably well, means you should no longer have to think about how much you eat. The food is all so nutrient dense and filling that in theory it should be difficult to eat too much. At first glance it seems pretty impossible to over eat vegetables, proteins and healthy fats. However, as with everything in life, human beings can over complicate anything. It can indeed be easy to eat too much fruit or avocados and some of the Paleo treats around can make it really easy to over eat foods that are very calorific, for example food made from nut flours or sweetened with dates.
These foods and most processed foods are known as being hyper-palatable which basically means they are just too yummy and easy to eat! In his new book 'Wired to Eat', the scientist and author Robb Wolf, explains how humans are actually 'wired' to overeat certain foods. Given the vast amount of food around us in the modern world, it can therefore actually be very tricky to eat sensibly. The underlying message that comes through in his book is that we need to understand our genetic make up, remove any sense of shame about this and be kind to ourselves about our innate tendency to overeat. This message of being gentle and kind to ourselves has also come through loud and clear in another book I chanced upon this month by the Nutritional Therapist and author Amelia Freer.
In her new book "Nourish and Glow: The Ten day plan", Amelia Freer has developed a new healthy eating pyramid called the Positive Nutrition Pyramid. This pyramid provides simple but highly effective guidance on what constitutes a balanced nutritious diet and can be used on a daily basis to track what you eat. There is now considerable evidence that tracking what you eat can help people lose weight and, more importantly, maintain that weight loss.
In her book, she explains that her advice is influenced by the Mediterranean diet which has a very good evidence base. She states that she doesn't eat many grains herself so there is a considerable crossover with the Paleo diet. What is so good about her pyramid is that it is indeed positive and the focus is very much on what you should eat to feel good rather than what you shouldn't! We are bombarded every day with immensely negative messages about what to avoid, deny or limit and this is such a refreshing change. She also addresses the emotional issues that can surround eating and provides sensible strategies to address this too. Interestingly, she acknowledges her advice is influenced by Gretchen Rubin who coincidentally Robb Wolf also cited as a key influence. I love when coincidences like this happen - it always makes me think I am on the right track!
The pyramid focuses on nuts/seeds; fats; complex carbs; proteins; fresh fruit; vegetables and drinks and her book provides advice on healthy portion sizes for each food group. This means anybody using the pyramid doesn't need to do any tedious weighing, tracking or calorie counting of food. Using the pyramid has made me more mindful of what I am eating and it is a daily reminder of what I actually 'need' to eat to function properly. Since following her advice I have naturally eaten a lot more vegetables, eaten more nuts and seeds, drunk a lot more water (and therefore a lot less coffee!) and eaten good amounts of protein. This in turn has meant I have naturally eaten a healthier amount of carbs and fats for myself right now. However, the important point is that using the pyramid means that on a daily basis I am now eating ALL the food groups I need to eat to feel good and I feel much better for doing this. There is nothing you can't eat but she advises that if you eat something that isn't on the pyramid (hello my son's packet of hoola hoops!) you simply acknowledge that it isn't part of the pyramid and then continue to focus on what remains in your pyramid for the rest of the day.
If you are interested in this method you can download this pyramid for free here. When I use it myself I also add in some boxes of my own to remind myself of healthy goals I want to do everyday. I decided to continue the positive approach and I have goals like 'go for a walk' and 'sit in the sunshine' (ha! not happened once!) rather than negative goals like 'spend less time on social media' (ahem) or 'eat less snacks'. You can buy her book and read more about the pyramid and the ten day plan here*. As a health researcher and as someone who loves nutrition I read a LOT about healthy eating but this book has particularly stood out for me. I have been running around talking about it to anybody who will listen (my poor husband and family!) and I thought it could be helpful for anybody else who gets overwhelmed by all the conflicting advice out there and just wants a simple, easy to manage guide on what to eat to feel good. I was drawn to the book when I saw Amelia Freer talk about the pyramid on Instagram Stories and that video is still available to watch on her Facebook page if you are interested. If you have any questions please feel to comment below or contact me via my social media pages. I will be happy to answer any questions I can
*Please note there are no affiliate links in this post, nor is it sponsored. I have linked to Amelia Freer's book as a courtesy to thank her for very graciously letting me use the image from her book for this blog post. It was really kind of her to do so.