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.
Summer in Scotland. What can I say? It is fleeting. However, there is something about the utter unpredictability of a Scottish summer that means when it is sunny the Scots tend to really go for it and celebrate ("taps aff" often trends on Twitter).
A proper summers day inevitably includes ice cream and ice lollies and if you are sugar free then being able to join in with a healthier option is always a bonus. This is especially for young children who don't like to feel left out. My son has to be on a very low sugar gut-healing diet at the moment so I decided to make some sugar free and dairy free ice cream and ice lollies for him to try this year that would also have the added bonus of containing some of the foods that are very good for him right now.
These two recipes are very simple to make and taste pretty close to the real deal. They are also very healthy but keep that bit under your hat as children will then think there is some hidden green 'stuff' in there. The berries in the ice lollies contain a high amount of anti-oxidants and other phyto-nutrients. The coconut cream contains healthy fats plus caprylic acid which is very beneficial to all of us but particularly good for those who need to heal their gut. The sprinkles add zero value but they increased the chance of a 'buy in' from my son so pragmatism, as always, won the day.
The ice cream is also only sweetened with fruit. If you choose to add the collagen hydrolysate powder it adds some protein and makes it taste even creamier. Collagen hydrolysate has significant gut healing properties too.
These are perfect for the rare days when the paddling pool is out and the sprinkler is on but they will definitely cheer up those days when no "taps are aff" and the central heating is back on. Even when there is a hail storm. Yes, that happens.
I hope you enjoy them whatever the weather! x
Very Berry Ice Lollies
300g of any type of berries, fresh or frozen.
200g of coconut cream, yoghurt or milk (the tinned type of coconut milk)
1 to 3 teaspoons of Maple Syrup or honey to sweeten depending on taste.
Blend all the ingredients apart from the sprinkles using a blender or food processor
Pour into ice lolly moulds and freeze.
Once frozen and ready to eat, remove from moulds, soften a little and add the sprinkles.
27/5/2017 4 Comments
Why are healthy fats so important for children?
A recent tabloid article berating mums for giving their children fish fingers and all the funny #solidaritea responses on social media made me cross, laugh and feel better about myself all at once. I know in many circles there is much pearl clutching about giving kids fish fingers. However, when you have a fussy eater to contend with, your life becomes a series of pragmatic decisions. This photograph is of my son aged 18 months eating fish fingers as this was one of the four meals he would eat at that time. Of course it would be better if your child happily ate mackerel pate but if you don't have a mackerel pate eating child then fish fingers do contain some omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Omega-3 and other healthy fats are indeed essential for children. These fats are crucial for brain growth and development, for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K, and for lowering the impact of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. Fat helps keep children feeling full, it helps with energy levels and as adults we know it just makes food taste better. Who can eat a baked potato without butter? These healthy fats are found in fish but also in nuts, seeds, avocados and coconut oil.
How to include healthy fats in your child's diet?
Getting kids to eat these foods can however be tricky and in some parent's cases (mine) a jaw clenching (literally) nightmare. So what can you do? If you have a child that is a good eater then it can be relatively easy to add them into your child's diet with or without fish fingers. Salmon and other oily fish are good straight-forward options, guacamole with vegetable sticks ticks the avocado box and you can add coconut oil to smoothies, soups and casseroles. Nuts and seeds can be added to home made energy bars and coconut yoghurt is a good option for a dessert.
And then we come to the children that the parents of the good eaters can't comprehend. These are the kids who treat every new food as if you have laced it with arsenic and think eating something 'mushy' like a casserole is a punishment worse than turning off the wi-fi. Soup isn't happening, smoothies are a no and handing over a bowl of guacamole would just be so ridiculous it isn't even worth attempting. The parents of these children know that it is a battle you lose three or four times a day. Every day.
Over the years, I have learnt that once you accept you can't win this battle and take a different approach you might have a chance of winning the war. I believe this means starting from where the child is at, working with them and accepting it is going to take baby steps whilst playing the long game. For me, this has meant accepting my child will not easily eat any new 'wet' food. I now always start with 'dry' food and then build upon it. My son has recently had to eat a lot more healthy fats due to healing gut issues. This is an ongoing process and it has taken a lot of trial and error but after a few weeks I have found the following foods and recipes have been successful ways to get healthy fats into his diet.
Stealth Ninja tips
I am still working hard to find more ideas and recipes to include a broader range of healthy fats. I still haven't worked out how to include avocado. Anything my son eats has to definitely not look green or be in anyway squishy which is a tough ask for an avocado but the Ninja in me will not give up. I hope you find some of these tips and recipes useful. Any other suggestions will be very gratefully received in the comments section below!
I tend not to talk about what I eat unless I really have to. I have always felt that what you eat is personal and should not be commented on or questioned too much. When you do have to say that you eat a Paleo diet most people are interested and ask questions politely. However, you do sometimes get a very skeptical response, often followed by comments such as Paleolithic man only lived to about the age of 20 and is therefore not the best role model. What do you do? Club them over the head and drag them to your plate of delicious food? Or just answer the question politely? So far, I have gone with the latter.
I am not surprised I get asked questions as the Paleo Diet is still not that well known in Scotland or the rest of the UK. If you google you get bizarre images of cavemen (weirdly, rarely cavewomen or cavekids) and lots of meat. It would be easy to think the Paleo Diet is a slab of raw meat with chicken wings as a side. It also seems to get jumbled up into the media- fuelled view that if you follow any diet that isn't traditional you are somehow a demanding snowflake who does so for attention. This media distortion is invariably backed up the medical community who repeatedly point out that only a tiny minority of people need to omit any food groups from the standard Western diet.
However, despite this prevailing view, there does seem to have been an enormous cultural shift and people are trying different ways of eating and realising that they feel much better for doing so. If you glance at any news stand you will see a vast range of magazines on health, super-foods, vegan diets, gluten and dairy-free and now also Paleo. In America and Australia in particular, Paleo cook books are often the best sellers and there are now a huge number of food companies selling Paleo friendly products.
The Paleo Diet
The Paleo diet really is just eating the simple, natural foods that our ancestors ate. This means eating foods that we are genetically adapted to eat and that we have evolved to eat over millions of years. This includes good quality meat, fish and eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
The traditional Paleo diet does exclude grains, starchy foods and dairy products. This seems like a tough ask but it is important to stress that a traditional Paleo diet is only a starting point from which you work out the that foods really work for you. Doing so is much easier if you can stick to a traditional Paleo diet for about a month. This is because it appears to be that when we repeatedly eat foods that we are actually intolerant to, our bodies have this unhelpful glitch of getting used to those foods and masking our true reaction to it. We often can't sense this true reaction until we go back to basics and do a 're-set'.
Changes in health
The results can be really surprising. It can transpire that you really do feel better when you cut out certain foods that you have eaten for years. Conversely, other foods are fine when you re-introduce them and of course you should continue eating them. For myself, I can't eat any gluten at all and I definitely feel better without dairy and sugar but I am fine with rice and potatoes and I can eat non gluten grains like corn in small amounts. My husband isn't intolerant to any foods but chooses to eat paleo (most of the time!) as he realised he just felt better. He is not alone in this. Many people report feeling better when they follow the Paleo Diet and there is growing scientific evidence that supports this way of eating. Ultimately though, I believe that everbody is unique and that there is not one diet or approach that fits all. Trying it out and then seeing how you feel is the best 'evidence-base' to rely upon.
NB: I didn't have to club my husband over the head to get him to change his diet. He did so voluntarily. Honest.
If you have any comments or questions about trying to eat this way please feel free to ask me below or contact me on social media via the links on this blog. I will be very happy to help.