Children, Health and Wellbeing, Uncategorised

Kids and New Foods

I just thought I’d share this fabulous image from the Wellness Festival I attended on Sunday. A mum and her son came to try my healthy snack tasters and became really interested in the ingredients in the recipe sheets. The foods weren’t something the little boy had tried before, and the blondies contained chickpeas, which were a foreign thing in a sweet snack to both adults and kids.

It was lovely to see them together talking about food, which is important for a child to develop an interest in food and a willingness to try new things.

It’s important to have an open attitude to food and your children will follow your lead.

Sometimes it can be difficult to get children to try foods which fall outside their familiar meals and snacks. You may have tried to introduce more of a variety, but you keep hitting a brick wall, which can be extremely frustrating, when you’ve spent a long time cooking.

I always found with my own children that if they didn’t like a particular food, I’d put a very small amount on the plate – alongside their much loved meals – which I’d ask them to at least try. They didn’t have to eat much of it – just taste it and leave the rest. Even if they didn’t like it, I’d keep reintroducing that same food (never in large amounts) at meal times. Often they’d develop a liking for it but sometimes they wouldn’t (sweet potatoes and tomatoes are two examples of this with my youngest).

What we have to remember (which is difficult in our busy modern lives) is that it takes around 10 tastes of a food for a child to be able to accept it. Just because they say they don’t like it the first time doesn’t mean they can’t ever like it.

However, it’s important not to make too much of an issue of it. If you come to realise that it’s a food they aren’t ready for, praise them for trying it, and move on. Children’s tastebuds are far more sensitive than an adult’s – maybe they don’t like that food right now, but when they’re older, it may just be their favourite (as olives are with me!)

Health and Wellbeing, Nutrition, nutritional therapy, Uncategorised, Wellness

Littleborough Wellness Festival

Yesterday was a fantastic day. It was the first Littleborough Wellness Festival at Littleborough Cricket Club, organised by Littleborough and Area Ladies Circle, with all proceeds going to Rochdale & District Mind. I met some great people, both the stallholders and people who came to visit.

I was blown away by how many people were looking for more natural ways to deal with their ill health or improve their health. There’s a lot of interest out there for changes to the way we eat and live our lives. What I was hearing, however, was that there is so much conflicting information out there that people often get confused and don’t know where to start.

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. A good starting point is with the BANT Wellness Plate and their 7-a-day Eat a Rainbow handouts. I was explaining to the people who came to chat with me that half their daily intake of food should be focused on fruits and vegetables, but also, that it’s important to eat a wide range of colours and types of plant-based foods. Our gut bacteria thrives on different varieties of fibres and polyphenols within plant-based foods, so diversity is key. The spectrum of colours available in fruits and vegetables offer different benefits – helping immunity, mood, energy, hormones, digestion, cardiovascular and skeletal health etc.

The healthy snacks tasters I made – energy balls and chickpea & cashew blondies – went down a treat

Although eating like this is beneficial to everyone, sometimes it doesn’t improve the symptoms we may be experiencing. Depending on what’s going on in our bodies, it may even make things worse. At this point it’s advisable to see a professional who, during their consultation, will try to identify the potential root cause of your issues. We are all individuals, so a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. The triggers and drivers for our illnesses differ from person-to-person, even if they are suffering with the same condition.

Just before the doors open. Everyone’s just finishing setting up!

One of my favourite parts of the day was talking to representatives from MIND and the University of the Third Age who expressed interest in me participating in workshops and talks with the general public. This is very exciting, as it means I can spread the word about the benefits of dietary and lifestyle interventions to a greater audience. Nutrition has an important role in mental health and healthy ageing, but it’s not always so easy to be able to implement dietary advice when you might be living alone or struggling with mental health issues. It would be great to offer support and strategies to these groups in ways that suit their individual needs.

Finally, I’d like to thank my friends Natasha Sophia Sarak (of Prestwich Health Heroes) and Pauline Holt, who turned up yesterday to support me. Cheerleaders help us move forward, and feel positive and focused! I really appreciate them taking precious time out of their day and I certainly felt the love. Thanks guys!

Really appreciate the support I got from my fellow nutritional therapy buddy

Roll Up! Roll Up! NT in Local Paper!

So today, this happened…  Hebden Bridge & Todmorden Times & News – 10th December 2018

I was excited to wake up today to see a friend of mine had posted on FB that she was having breakfast with me.  I didn’t know what she was talking about at first – then I saw this picture.  With my beady eyes staring at her the whole time she was eating, I’m surprised I didn’t actually put her OFF her breakfast!

Anyway, the article is basically about my daughter’s ill health, and how it led to me eventually taking the leap to become a nutritional therapist.  If you’re interested, I’ll post the story below.

“Just eating healthily didn’t seem to be working for me or my daughter Lucy.  She’d been born with a rare genetic condition – Pallister-Killian Syndrome – and health that deteriorated with her age (nervous tics, behavioural issues, anxiety, restless legs, stomach pain, throat swelling, and a chronic condition called Hidradenitis Suppurativa, which presents as large, recurrent abscesses).  Dealing with an unwell, unhappy child, who was often in pain, also took it’s toll on me.   I tried finding answers for years, and the doctors, though sympathetic, couldn’t always help.  The tests they took, on the whole, came up clear.  It was frustrating and I felt fatigued, anxious, and developed my own escalating set of symptoms (allergies, mood swings, bloating, joint pain, and weight gain), which were the negative effects of chronic stress on my immune, nervous and digestive systems. 

For years, I suspected the answer might be dietary.  As a baby, Lucy became fractious after feeding, so I tried improving our eating habits, and I saw benefits, but it wasn’t enough.  By her teens, Lucy was on large doses of antibiotics, which led to further health decline.

Trying to find answers through scientific research wasn’t as helpful as I hoped.  I found myself in a rabbit warren of information that was difficult for the inexperienced eye to fathom.  I learned that, what worked for one group didn’t work for another, and what worked for others didn’t always work for us.

In 2014, I started a nutritional therapy diploma with the College of Naturopathic Medicine.  I was certain there was a role for nutrition in improving health, but I needed the tools to do it.  A few months in, now understanding I couldn’t be objective about my daughter’s or my own health, I employed a registered nutritional therapist, and finally, we made headway.  At this time, Lucy’s abscesses were so unrelenting, the only option seemed to be drastic surgery to cut away areas of her skin and replace them with skin from other parts of her body.  I didn’t want surgery, I wanted answers.  Our nutritional therapist advised private functional testing – a stool test to check gut health for Lucy, urine tests to check my nutrient and neurotransmitter levels, and a finger-prick food intolerance test for both of us.

Nutritional therapy is an individual approach that investigates potential root causes of people’s symptoms to improve them.  Dietary change is always comes first, but as this wasn’t effective in this instance, testing now highlighted imbalances in our bodies, as well as foods that contributed to our symptoms.  The results guided which supplements and lifestyle changes were required. Since then, I’ve watched Lucy’s health blossom.  Her issues are entirely eliminated or under better control.  She’s calmer and happier.  The same for me.  The quality of our lives has improved exponentially.   I can’t recommend the benefits of nutritional therapy enough, and love having the skills to make a huge difference to people’s lives.   Nutritional therapy works on so many levels, and there’s nothing to lose, apart from a whole raft of negative symptoms.”


What is ‘a portion’ of fruit and veg?

I really like the BANT Wellness Solution.  It gives you clear guidelines as to what you should be eating on a day-to-day basis.  Obviously, the suggestions are an outline, not an individual approach, and what suits one person, may not suit another.  Some people, because of particular health issues, might struggle with fats or with too many fibrous vegetables (this is one area where I come in as a nutritional therapist, to find out the potential root causes for digestive issues such as these). However, for those who are healthy, or who want to improve their overall wellbeing, this plate is a great place to start.

People often ask me what a portion actually is.  There are some great resources that can help with this, and I’ve linked them below.  However, for a quick and easy visual approach, a portion of fruit and vegetables is how much you can fit into the cupped palm of your hand.  So in terms of broccoli, this will be a couple of spears; for green peas, this will be about 3 tablespoons.  For green leafy vegetables, however, it is slightly different – it is a compressed (measuring cup) when raw.   A portion is not mounds and mounds, as some people imagine, so it is easier than you think to fit in your daily requirements.   

In terms fruits and vegetable consumption, government guidelines are still 5-a-day, whilst the BANT plate suggests 7-a-day.  Recent research has also found that 10-a-day is optimal.  Though I wouldn’t suggest stressing yourself about getting in so many portions if your day is busy and it is difficult for you to do so, always bear in mind that health outcomes do improve for every portion you add to your day.   I’d say that whenever you can, try to eat the higher limits of vegetable foods and when you can’t, just do your best.  For me personally, I feel at my best when I eat around 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, but some days, it just ain’t happening.  (Having said that – it is much easier to do so when you eat a plant-based diet anyway).

So here are the links I mentioned earlier.  

This first link from the British Nutrition Foundation gives some great tips on adding 5 a day into your daily diet.  This would definitely get you started on the route to better health:

This second link is a tick sheet for more easy visualisation of the fruits and vegetables you are eating.  As variety is also key to good health, it encourages you to try a new fruit or vegetable every day.  This is also from the British Nutrition Foundation, and though it can be used for adults, it’s particularly good for kids.  Or how about the whole family getting involved.  There is nothing more encouraging for a child than an adult as a good role model

Next time, I’ll be talking about about my new love… my soup maker!  

If you found the information here useful or if you have any requests for future blog-posts, please click on the title and comment at the bottom of the post.


Ways To Up Your Greens – Part 2

In the last two posts I’ve talked about the nutritional benefits of green leafy vegetables, and how to get more of them into your diet.  Today, I finish off this topic with a few more suggestions of when and how you can enjoy these as a part of your daily diet.

  1. Make a rocket soup!  It’s absolutely packed to the brim with leafy greens yet you’d never know it.  It’s also so easy, yet so fresh and delicious.
  2. Pack a wrap with some hummus and broken walnuts, and a handful of spinach, rocket or watercress.  Whatever floats your boat!
  3. Mashed potatoes or smashed new potatoes are great with a dollop of wholegrain mustard and some chopped watercress.  It adds a whole new dimension of peppery-ness that you’ll love!
  4. One thing I really love to do is have a delicious plant-based cooked breakfast with some freshly wilted spinach on the side.  It’s really fresh, and looks gorgeous on the plate with the roasted vine tomatoes, stuffed mushrooms, beetroot falafel, avocado and beans (sorry, but you’ve got to have beans!)
  5. Steam a large head of broccoli (or two) until cooked but with some bite.  Rinse under cold water to keep the fresh green colour, then keep in the fridge to add as a side to meals, or throw into stir fries, or use as a crudite in hummus or dips.  Broccoli is also delicious roasted, as it really seems to intensify the flavour.

So, there’s plenty there to keep you going.

Remember, try to gradually increase your intake to 2-3 portions a day.  To keep to it, plan in advance,  and when you’re on the go, take your greens with you.

And I’m not just talking about salad vegetables… there’s no reason why you have to eat your cooked greens hot.  Take them in your lunch box mixed in with noodles or in a quinoa salad.  You may be pleasantly surprised.

Next time, I’ll be talking about exactly what a portion is, and how many portions a day you should be eating each day for optimal health.

If you found the information here useful or if you have any requests for future blog-posts, please post in the comments below.



Ways To Up Your Greens – Part 1

Getting more green leafy vegetables into your diet needn’t be difficult.  Personally, I find it’s all in the  planning, so that I’m not having to overthink it, or spend all my free time preparing and cooking.  (Please see my previous post if you want more information about what exactly a green leafy vegetable is, and what benefits they offer).

  1.  Chop up a salad and store it in the fridge for a few days.  Use rocket, spinach, watercress, romaine and, if you’re feeling adventurous, even kale!  Herbs such as parsley and coriander (if you are a fan) also offer a new flavour dimension. Add salad portions as a side to your meals, or even better, eat it before your meal to kickstart your digestion.
  2. Stir-fry spring greens, broccoli, pak choi, sliced Brussels sprouts or savoy cabbage with onions, garlic and your favourite spices to make a delicious side.  It’s also great with added soy sauce or tamari.  If you make a large batch you can store it in the fridge and add it to your meals.  I really like greens stir-fried this way with added cashews or as a bed for a home-made fat spicy bean burger to sit on.
  3. I find a really quick way to get in the greens is to add them, finely chopped, at the end of cooking.  They add texture and colour to soups, stews and casseroles.  I particularly like adding a big bunch of spinach to a sweet potato and chickpea curry.  Or kale or spring greens are great in a chilli.
  4. Make a green smoothie.  Fill up the blender beaker with at least half leafy greens (I like kale and spinach the best for this purpose), then top up the rest with other vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds or anything else you enjoy or will satisfy you.
  5. Finely chopping parsley and/or coriander is a highly effective way to add nutrients, colour and flavour to a pilaf made of brown rice or quinoa. You could also boil up some wholewheat or red lentil pasta, or buckwheat noodles for a change, stir-fry some onions and garlic, then add in a chopped bunch of gorgeous herbs (or other greens, such as spring greens, savoy cabbage, or pak choi) for a really nutritious but simple meal.

Next time I’ll be giving you some more tips on how to up your green leafy intake. See you then.

If you found the information here useful or if you have any requests for future blog-posts, please post in the comments below.



Eat Your Greens!

Greens come in all shapes and sizes, each offering a unique combination of nutrients and phytochemicals, that not only work independently of each other to offer your body a multitude of health benefits, but also synergistically, in ways we have yet to fully discover.

One thing people really struggle to get into their diet is green leafy vegetables. This is a shame because they are extremely nutrient-dense.  Rich in vitamins A, C, K and many B vitamins, as well as magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron and fibre, these nutrients are an important component for many of our body’s processes, and play a huge role in our mental and physical wellbeing. Nutrients in greens also repair damage from free radicals, help to balance  blood pressure, help protect against cancer, and support our gut health.  Green leafy vegetables also have a high omega 3 to omega 6 ratio, which is exactly what our bodies need to fight inflammation.

Examples of green leafy vegetables are spinach, kale, broccoli, swiss chard, savoy cabbage, spring greens, Brussels sprouts, rocket, pak choi, watercress, romaine lettuce, beetroot tops and even herbs like fresh coriander, basil, chives, and parsley.  It’s also important to vary the types of greens we eat because each type also offers a different balance of nutrients and phytochemicals that help our bodies maintain health in a variety of ways.

There are various ways of getting more of these highly nutritious vegetables into your diet, which I’ll talk about in my next post.  As a rule of thumb, I’d recommend 2-3 portions per day, especially if you are on a dairy-free diet (green leafy vegetables are rich in calcium and magnesium – important for bone health!)  If you can’t manage this at the moment, start with 2-3 portions a week.  Simply eating more of these nutrient-rich vegetables will make a huge difference to your wellbeing then, if you can, build up more portions as you get used to your new routine. 

In the next post we’ll be looking at exactly how to introduce more greens into your diet.

If you found the information here useful or if you have any requests for future blog-posts, please post in the comments below.