On behalf of Sentient Life, welcome to my new column and to the start of such a wonderful season. Ten years ago, I began a love affair with food. As an experienced Nutritional Therapist, I am truly passionate about real, honest food. They say that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but for me it’s all about nutrition; it’s ability to nourish us, to influence longevity and to inspire social connectedness. Healthy eating really does bring out the best in me, in us all.
Over the years, I’ve gained a lot of invaluable knowledge, supporting individuals with numerous health concerns. As I’m so passionate about healthy food, I want to inspire you all to love nutrition as much as I do. For me, healthy eating is not about fad diets. It’s about eating real food and having the confidence to cook, from scratch, with fresh ingredients. It’s about making permanent, healthy changes and bridging the gap between farm and fork. Join me every month as we move through the seasons with a sense of optimism and vitality. Packed full of expert advice, each column will be brimming with exciting information to help get you looking and feeling your absolute best. I’m inviting you to join me on my journey, as I explore the world of nutrition and wellbeing.
SPRING INTO NUTRITION
I love Spring, it’s such a fresh and exciting season. When I think about Spring, I think about singing birds, the early daffodils and about the vast array of healthy produce that awaits us. In terms of both nutrition and wellbeing, Spring is all about growth and new beginnings, the perfect time of year to focus on your health. Spring is like Christmas for your taste buds and therefore an ideal time of year to experiment with new ingredients.
The real key to a nutritious diet is variety. As the seasons change, so too should our food choices. I cannot stress enough the importance of eating produce that is in season. Fruits and vegetables grown within their season (and therefore in the most favourable conditions), exhibit far more nutrients than those grown out of season. The colours of fruits and vegetables are indicative of the disease-fighting nutrients inside, so it’s incredibly important to eat as many colours as possible. Eating a wide variety of colourful fruits and vegetables can help ward off chronic diseases. The beautiful palette of spring provides a great opportunity for us all to experiment with lots of colourful produce.
OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW
For me, the start of Spring is the ideal time of year for a fridge and cupboard overhaul. I love nothing more than to have a good clear out. All those years ago, when I first developed a love for nutrition, I adopted the philosophy of out with the old and in with the new. To better my relationship with food (I say relationship, because my connection with food is just that; an ever-changing, intimate relationship that requires tender love and care), I had to clear out the sugary convenience food and replace it with lots of fresh, delicious produce. I can tell you from my own experiences with nutrition that you don’t have to be a slave in the kitchen to enjoy all that nature has to offer. I feel that we are programmed to think that way (often to persuade us to buy convenience foods), but I can assure you that some of the most delicious meals can be prepared and cooked in a flash. Cooking is fun, especially when you have a greater appreciation of the ingredients you are using.
Spring is a time when I like to pack my fridge with lots of seasonal goodies. In my mind, you can never have enough veg. I aim to eat at least five to six portions every single day. I’m always inspired by the following Michael Pollan quote, taken from his book ‘In Defense of Food.’
So that I can inspire you to embrace all that Spring has to offer, I’d like to take you on a rather seasonal tour of my fridge.
You may be wondering why my fridge isn’t jam packed. As I like to keep things fresh, I only have in exactly what I need. I try to plan my meals in weekly blocks, so that I know exactly what food items I require. That way, I avoid waste and I ensure that every meal is nutritionally dense.
I can’t talk about spring without mentioning the humble egg, especially with Easter approaching. I always have eggs in my fridge. Eggs are such a fantastic source of protein, as well as a whole array of vitamins and minerals. When buying eggs, I always opt for farm fresh, organic and free-range eggs, as they are far superior to any other eggs. Whenever I eat eggs, I always combine them with vegetables. For breakfast during the Spring season, I often have poached eggs on a bed of seasonal greens or an omelette packed full of my favourite seasonal veggies. This was my breakfast earlier this week; two poached eggs on a bed of steamed rainbow chad with Soba/buckwheat noodles and extra virgin olive oil. This is one of my favourite breakfasts. It’s so tasty and filling, a great way to BREAK the FAST.
I always find it amazing how quickly you can transform something so simple into something so delicious. They say that you should eat breakfast like a king, so what better way to kick start your day.
I’ve currently got some organic chicken carcasses chilling in the fridge, ready to make my own chicken broth/stock. You can see how I use fresh chicken stock in this month’s watercress soup recipe below. I always have in a selection of nuts (usually walnuts and/or almonds) and nut butters. As you can see, I store my nuts in the fridge in an air-tight container. The essential fatty acids in nuts can become rancid at room temperature, especially during the warmer months, so it’s important to keep them chilled.
I like to have vegetables with most meal, so I’ve always got a lot of fresh vegetables in my fridge. I always try to focus on those that are in season. Let me talk you through what seasonal vegetables I currently have in my fridge.
When it comes to eating the seasonal rainbow, it doesn’t get much better than rainbow chard. Packed full of fibre, Vitamin A and K, this vegetable is a true delight to eat. This is definitely my vegetable of choice during the Spring. For me, healthy eating should be a visual delight, as well as a delight to the taste buds. With its array of colours, rainbow chard does not disappoint. You can use rainbow chard in the following recipe.
Ginger and Honey Wild Salmon Parcels
- 1 wild salmon fillet
- 1 teaspoon Organic Raw Honey
- ½ lemon, juice and zest
- 1 clove garlic, minced/finely grated
- 1 x 5cm piece of ginger, minced/finely grated
- Rainbow chard, finely sliced
- Handful fresh parsley (option)
- Pinch Himalayan salt
Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 or equivalent. In a small bowl/jug, whisk together the honey, lemon juice, ginger, garlic and Himalayan salt. Using one large sheet of baking parchment, place the rainbow chard onto the bottom. Position the wild salmon fillet on top of the chard. Drizzle over the honey and lemon dressing and top with a small handful of fresh parsley (optional). Wrap up each parcel using string, so that no juices can escape. I have left my parcel open, so that you can see how delicious it looks. Place on a baking tray and cook for 15 minutes. Only untie the parcels just before serving. Personally, I like to eat mine straight out of the paper. There’s something so comforting about doing that. This dish is a real winner for me. Full of flavour and full of goodness. My partner, who I have to say is not mad on vegetables or oily fish, really enjoys this recipe. The ginger, lemon, honey and garlic bring everything together in such an exciting way. You can also experiment with fresh herbs for added flavour.
Simplistic and fresh, watercress is brimming with vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B12, manganese and calcium. Watercress is the perfect addition to homemade soups and salads. I think it has a rather peppery flavour, which is why it works so well in soups. As part of this month’s recipes, why not try the following watercress soup recipe. Not only does it taste great, it’s a great way to increase your intake of greens.
- 100g watercress
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
- 1 leek, washed and finely chopped
- 400ml fresh chicken/vegetable stock
- Himalayan salt (to taste)
- ½ teaspoon cold pressed virgin coconut oil
This is such a fresh and vibrant soup and a great way of incorporating some seasonal greens into the diet. I always feel so clean and alive after I’ve eaten something like this. How can I not? It’s a bowl of nature’s finest. I personally use homemade chicken stock in this recipe. I slow cook two organic chicken carcasses in some filtered water, for about 12 hours, with fresh garlic, celery and carrots. You can of course buy fresh chicken/vegetable stock if you don’t wish to make your own. The taste and nutritional benefits of fresh stock are far superior to stock cubes, which are often high in salt and full of artificial ingredients.
Finely chop the onion, leek and celery. Heat the coconut oil in a medium pan and fry the onions, leek and celery for five minutes, until softened and translucent. The aim is not to brown/caramelise the onions, but rather to soften them. Once softened, add in the watercress and fresh stock. Allow to simmer for just a couple of minutes. After cooling slightly, using a blender, Blend until smooth. Season to taste with a pinch of Himalayan salt. I often find that you don’t need any extra seasoning. Just look at that. Surprisingly creamy and incredibly delicious!
Purple Sprouting Broccoli
Full of antioxidants, this vibrant vegetable can add a whole new dimension to your dinner plate. With longer stems and leaves, purple sprouting broccoli looks rather different when compared to the standard green variety. If you don’t like broccoli, you may well like purple sprouting broccoli, as it has a slightly sweeter taste. I like to lightly steam and serve warm, drizzled with cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. Sometimes I sprinkle over some toasted pumpkin seeds. For added flavour, you can try steam frying the broccoli in coconut oil an water with some thinly sliced/minced garlic and some freshly sliced chilli.
In all honesty, I’ve only recently started to use celeriac. I think a lot of people struggle to know what to do with it. It certainly looks very extra-terrestrial doesn’t it? Celeriac is very closely related to celery (you may have already guessed that given the name), so has quite a unique flavour. An excellent source of vitamin K, phosphorus and vitamin C, celeriac makes a great alternative to traditional mashed potato. I like to mash together celeriac and cauliflower. Drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, it’s the perfect accompaniment to wild salmon or garlic chicken.
I use spinach every single day. I have to say, I’m not a fan of cooked spinach (the texture can be a little sloppy), but I always add two large handfuls of raw spinach into my daily green smoothie. It works so well in smoothies, as it doesn’t have a strong flavour, so is very palatable. Rich in iron and loaded with powerful antioxidants, spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables.
During the Spring, you may choose to incorporate some of the following seasonal produce into your weekly meal plan.
Rich in vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin K, zinc, selenium and manganese, these little spears are truly delicious. Asparagus has its own unique flavour and I find it to be the perfect accompaniment to poached eggs, chicken and fish. I tend to steam the asparagus for just a few minutes and then drizzle with cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. It really is the best way to serve it.
Renowned for being one of the best sources of calcium, this leafy herb packs a real punch on the nutritional front. Rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, potassium, zinc, copper and magnesium, parsley is one of the most nutritious herbs available during Spring. Parsley is also a natural diuretic, ideal for anyone who suffers with urinary tract infections, oedema and/or kidney stones. I find it compliments both fish and chicken very well and can even be added to smoothies for that additional nutritious boost.
Purple sweet potatoes
Packed full of fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium, this antioxidant-rich purple beauty is as vibrant as it gets. With a similar comforting flavour to the standard sweet potato, purple sweet potatoes will be a real talking point at your dinner table. I love to bake them in the oven for a healthier, more nutritious alternative to chips and wedges. These are a real winner with my young nieces and nephews; great news for all parents out there.
KEEP IT LOCAL THIS SPRING
My advice is to try and source your produce locally. Local produce is nutritionally superior, as it has not been shipped long distance. For the most part, I try to avoid the supermarkets and get most of my produce from local suppliers. If you can buy organic produce locally, even better. Here are my top tips to purchasing local organic produce.
- Get to know your local farmer and learn more about where your produce has come from and how it has been grown. Being more engaged in the farm-to-fork process means that you will have greater appreciation of the ingredients you are using.
- Venture out to your local farmer’s market and meet your local organic farmers face-to-face. On a warm Spring day, I love nothing more than to venture out to a local farmer’s market. You will find that the market sellers are extremely passionate about their produce and will be more than happy to engage in conversation and answer any questions you have.
- If you’re looking for convenience, the following companies will deliver farm fresh, organic produce directly to your door. I get a lot of my fresh produce delivered to me by Abel and Cole. They use local organic farms, so it’s a really convenient way of getting hold of quality produce.
SPRING CLEAN YOUR DIET
To give you a head start this Spring, here’s five simple tips that you can introduce today to help spring clean your diet.
- Drink more water (1.5 – 2 litres daily) and filter it well. Thirst is your body’s way of telling you that you are already dehydrated, so don’t let it get to this stage. Start each day with a pint glass of hot water and lemon to rehydrate your body after a long sleep. Drink water throughout the day, but not too late in the evening. Drinking too much water too late in the day can lead to disturbed sleep, due to a need to urinate. If you can incorporate this one step, you’ll notice a huge difference.
- If you don’t know what’s in it, bin it! If a product has a long ingredients list, the chances are it contains some hidden nasties. It’s best avoided. Using fresh ingredients means that you are in control of what you eat and not the manufacturer.
- Swap your tea and coffee for some cleansing herbal teas (I’m not referring to fruit tea here). Caffeine and tannins found within tea and coffee can inhibit the absorption of valuable nutrients. I love pukkaherbs.com and teapigs.co.uk for taste, quality and assortment. I love ginger and cinnamon tea, but there are many other varieties to choose form. On a warm day I like to make an iced cinnamon tea, an idea I picked up from a trip to New York. Simply make the cinnamon tea and leave to brew until the tea has completely cooled. Once cooled, remove the tea bag and add in some ice cubes or simply store in a glass jug in the fridge. I find this so refreshing, a great alternative to sugary drinks or squash.
- Increase your daily intake of vegetables, to include two leafy greens (spinach, kale, broccoli, savoy cabbage, Brussel sprouts, etc). Leafy greens are full of cancer-fighting nutrients, so it’s important to include them in your daily meals. This is the perfect way to maximise the nutritional content of your daily diet. I like to have a green smoothie everyday to ensure I’m getting enough greens. My recipe of choice is as follows:
Green Goddess Smoothie
- ½ Avocado
- 2 handfuls of organic spinach
- 1 handful of broccoli sprouts (you can use a few broccoli florets if you can’t get hold of broccoli sprouts)
- 1 organic apple OR a large handful of mixed berries
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- Chilled almond milk and water
Using a NutriBullet or equivalent device, blend all ingredients together until smooth and enjoy!
- Treat yourself to a new recipe book to help inspire you in the kitchen. Some of my best recipes have come from using my own imagination in the kitchen, often when trying to use up left-over ingredients. That said, sometimes you just need a little inspiration. I can highly recommend the following books:
- ‘Get the Glow’ – Madeleine Shaw
- ‘Cook, Nourish, Glow’ – Amelia Freer
Raw Cacao Brownies
During Lent and over Easter, the temptation to eat chocolate, especially when everybody else is delving into their Easter eggs, is all too real. Take it from me, these raw cacao truffles are to die for and they are packed full of wonderful nutrients. I have to say, they are a real favourite of mine, the perfect alternative to conventional processed, high-fat and high-sugar chocolate. This isn’t something I would have daily or even on a weekly basis, but they are my go to healthy treat when I need that chocolatey fix.
Similar recipes use hazelnuts, but I much prefer to use walnuts in my recipe. Walnuts are a fantastic source of alpha-linolenic acid omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, in terms of nuts, walnuts are one of the best sources of ALA omega-3 fats. Though not comparable to the omega-3 fats we get from oily fish, ALA omega-3 fats can support optimal brain and heart health. Walnuts are also a fantastic source of fibre, protein, magnesium, potassium and manganese.
In this recipe, dates are a fantastic alternative to sugar, as they are naturally very sweet. I tend to find that they have a rather caramel/treacle-like flavour, which I think works really well in this recipe. They are also a great source of fibre, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin B6. Sweet and nutritious, dates are a win win.
Spirulina I hear you ask. What on earth is that? Spirulina is an algae powder that packs a real punch on the nutritional front. In fact, it is deemed to be a superfood. High in protein and rich in a whole host of vitamins and minerals, it really transforms this recipe into a nutritional delight. Taste wise, spirulina is not for the faint hearted, but you won’t taste it in this recipe. Sometimes I use a combination of green powders, such as chlorella, wheatgrass and hemp.
Raw cacao powder is a far less processed version of cocoa powder. It comes from the cacao tree and is a natural source of chocolate, unlike the chocolate we are all familiar with (which contains no cacao at all). Rich in powerful antioxidants, as well as magnesium and iron, cacao powder is an ideal ingredient when making healthy snacks/deserts.
- 150g walnuts (unsalted)
- 150g Medjool dates (pitted)
- 50g organic cacao powder
- 2 pinches of Himalayan salt
- 3 teaspoons of spirulina powder
- 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (virgin, cold pressed), melted
In a NutriBullet or blender, blitz the walnuts into a fine crumb. Once you have the fine walnut crumb, add in all other ingredients and blend until smooth. Using a spatula, transfer the mix into a rectangular dish, cover and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. After they have set in the freezer, transfer into the fridge for 1 hour. In terms of presentation, I personally like to cut the brownies into bite size morsels. I usually have one or two weekly, as part of my healthy diet.
Your Weekly Spring Meal Plan
You may wish to experiment with some of your own recipes, but hopefully this plan will offer you a little inspiration.
|MONDAY||Two poached eggs on a bed of asparagus||Green goddess smoothie||Open millet bread sandwich||Roast chicken with cauliflower & celeriac mash|
|TUESDAY||Quinoa porridge with grated apple & cinnamon||Green goddess smoothie||Watercress soup with pumpkin seeds and buckwheat crispbreads||Roast chicken with cauliflower & celeriac mash|
|WEDNESDAY||Quinoa porridge with pumpkin seeds & banana||Green goddess smoothie||Left-over vegetable stir-fry with buckwheat noodles and cashew nuts||Chickpea chilli with brown rice|
|THURSDAY||Scrambled eggs with mushrooms on toasted millet bread||Green goddess smoothie||Watercress soup with pumpkin seeds and buckwheat crispbreads||Honey & ginger wild salmon parcels|
|FRIDAY||Spinach and pea omelette||Green goddess smoothie||Large mackerel salad||Vegan Thai coconut milk curry|
|SATURDAY||Quinoa porridge with grated apple & cinnamon||Green goddess smoothie||Left-over Vegetable stir-fry with buckwheat noodles and cashew nuts||Honey & ginger wild salmon parcels|
|SUNDAY||Poached egg and mashed avocado on toasted millet bread||Green goddess smoothie||Watercress soup with pumpkin seeds and buckwheat crispbreads||Kidney bean chilli|
- 2 bags of spinach
- 2 sticks celery
- 100g portobella mushrooms
- 100g watercress
- 3 ripe avocados
- 2 medium apples OR 2 large handfuls of mixed berries
- 1 small banana
- Rainbow chard
- 2 leeks
- Stewing vegetables (onions, carrots, celery & parsnips)
- 1 Celeriac
- 1 Cauliflower
- 50g frozen peas
- 1 fresh red chilli
- 1 courgette
- Salad items of your choice (why not try cucumber, avocado, romaine lettuce, radish and spring onions)
- 150g Medjool dates (pitted)
- Fresh ginger root
- 2 cloves garlic
- 6 organic free-range eggs
- 500g stewing lamb (you can use mince if preferred)
- 1 organic whole chicken
- 2 wild salmon fillets
- 800ml fresh meat/vegetable stock (400ml for the soup and 400ml for the stew)
- 3 slices of Biona organic gluten-free millet bread
- 6 handfuls of Amisa quinoa flakes1 small banana
- Small handful pumpkin seeds
- Cashew nuts
- 1 tin Biona organic chickpeas
- 1 tin Biona organic kidney beans
- 1 tin Biona organic coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 tin organic tomatoes
- Raw, organic honey (I use Hilltops Honey)
- Amisa buckwheat crispbreads
- Tinned mackerel (in extra virgin olive oil or spring water)
- 80g King Soba organic buckwheat noodles (40g per serving)
- 6 teaspoons thai green curry paste (3 teaspoons per recipe)
- 150g walnuts (unsalted)
- 50g organic cacao powder
- 2 pinches of Himalayan salt
- 3 teaspoons of spirulina powder
- 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (virgin, cold pressed)
- Unsweetened almond milk (opt for one with 6% almonds)
- Himalayan salt
So, we’re all ready to embrace Spring. Today is a new day, a fresh start. Your opportunity to be healthy starts right now. Let’s embrace nutrition together!