Category Archives: Health

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‘Eat Your Greens!’ – the age old battle lives on…..

Getting greens into kids has always been a challenge. We all remember orders to ‘eat your greens’ from our mothers! It is even more of a challenge nowadays with all the alternatives that are available. Back in the day of the more traditional cooking of our mothers and grandmothers, the only challenge was getting the children to eat the greens on their plate, but nowadays there are multiple problems; in a lot of cases is the greens are not even being served up, if they are they may have been grown in nutrient depleted soil, have possibly travelled across the world or been sprayed within an inch of their lives with pesticides.

Green foods are some of the most beneficial we can eat when it comes to giving our bodies the nutrients it needs to function properly. Packed with the whole range of vitamins as well as, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. The benefits are endless; blood clotting, energy, vision, bone health, cholesterol, skin can all benefit from eating green veg. Easy to see why we need to be eating them every day in every meal. We only have to glance at the average Irish daily diet for many kids of breakfast cereal, ham sandwich, chicken goujons, sausages, chips, treats and it is easy to see how many kids are not eating any greens at all. The results are clear in ever rising list of symptoms we are seeing in kids today, like pale skin, lack of concentration, child obesity, behaviour issues, the list goes on. We are doing the next generation an injustice! Feeding today’s kids well and educating them in health and nutrition is the simplest, quickest, most cost effective way to turn our obesity and healthcare crises around.

Heres our top suggestions on how to get greens into kids? What to do with fussy eaters? And how to avoid those dreaded dinner rows!

Smoothies/Smoothie Bowls

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Smoothies are such a handy way to get veg into kids. A little of most leafy greens e.g. Spinach, lettuce, pak choi, kale can be added to a berry, banana smoothie and a little chunk of other veg like carrot, celery or peeled courgette usually goes unnoticed. Yes some of you will argue that it is better to eat the veg rather than blend it, but if it’s a choice between getting it into them or not this is a good option to get the nutrients into them. Start with a tiny bit and build it up from there!

Soups

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Soups are a great versatile way to vary your child’s diet. Whatever your child’s taste from tomato to creamy chicken there is room there to slip in a little veg without too much of a battle. Again start with getting them to like certain types and then add more and more veg each time. And remember a little of a lot of different veg is going to give your child the whole range of nutrients!

‘Hidden’ Sauces

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Sauces are a fantastic place to sneak in some hidden veg. Many kids enjoy saucy meals like Spag Bol or lasagne etc A Nutribullet or blender makes it so easy to blitz a little extra veg through your sauce, slipping it past your little angels lips without a complaint. A great tomato sauce can be made by sautéed onion, garlic, celery then add carrot, peeled courgette and fry further and then adding passata, seasoning, honey/ brown sugar to sweeten slightly, dash balsamic vinegar. Perfect for little ones! 

Veg sticks 

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Making raw veg sticks a staple at snack time can get kids picking away at veggies in no time. Even if they don’t eat them at first keep it up, you can pick away at them yourself or even  better if their friend is visiting they may partake, nothing better then seeing what their peers are doing and thinking ‘hmmm I might give that a go’. Remember if it’s not out on the table they are definitely not going to try it!

Adding to their favourites

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Focussing on what they like and adding to that is the best way to get them on side, so if they like a bolognese, try and add some veg to the sauce. If they like a sandwich maybe add lettuce or cucumber.

Education

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Simply explaining the benefits of certain foods to kids can get them interested. Especially if a child has certain health concerns, rather than getting into a row, simply explaining that trying certain foods could make them feel better, the whole food as medicine concept, can actually have good results, event if not right away after the idea has time to settle! 

8 a day

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Guidelines now show that we should be eating approx 8 a day of fruit and veg. That amount can feel like a bit of a challenge with kids but with a little bit of thought and planning it can be easily done. Handy tips with smallies are making fruit/ fruit salad a regular at breakfast time, making veg & fruit a part of snack time, having veg at lunch and dinner, having fruit as a treat or dessert, if eating out opting for veg instead of chips.

There are so many benefits to upping your veg intake, energy, skin, mood, digestion, behaviour, There’s no doubt more veg = a happier healthier child. I think we would all agree that is worth a little extra work & perseverance!

Nutrition & wellness coaching - lifestyle factors

Complete Health – more than just diet & exercise

When it comes to our health, we focus a lot on diet and exercise, very important factors of course! And it can be difficult to conquer these two alone in the world we live in today, with so much time pressure and all the processed nasty foods we are surrounded with, without adding anything else into the mix, but full health is about much more than just these two factors. But don’t worry!! The good news is, while you are busy trying to tweak your diet and fit that exercise into your already busy schedule, there are many little things you can be doing, daily habits that don’t take long, that can really impact your health and can even have a bearing on your eating and movement too.

Take a person who is eating really healthy and exercising 5 times a week, but still not feeling at optimal health. What other factors are at play? Stress, connection, relaxation, purpose, so many other elements you may not even think of have such a great impact on our health both physical and mental. Stress plays such a big part in our lives these days, our lives are busier than ever, rushing and racing and jam-packed schedules have become the norm. Sometimes the simplest change in your lifestyle can make all the difference, something really small that you may not even relate to ‘being healthy’ can have huge effect. Here are some tips on small changes that can bring big health benefits.

Slowing Down

We can all get caught up in the rat-race, trying to squeeze everything in, feeling there aren’t enough hours in the day. We can have a day so filled with things to do; work, family, social commitments, exercise, there is no time left to ‘just be’. Sometimes just rethinking the day and thinking ‘I don’t HAVE to do that today’ about one thing on the list, can take the pressure off and allow a little time for ourselves. We can all get caught up in the ‘I have to do’ or ‘I should do’ mentality, which is a stress on us whether we realise it or not. A little flexibility can go a long way. Every now and again simply deciding to leave the housework or the gym and have a cuppa with a friend or a leisurely mindful stroll instead, can be just what the doctor ordered.

When it comes to exercise, the likes of yoga or pilates are great exercise which give good results but are done in a slow relaxing way, great for body and mind. Many of us are exercising to lose weight, so the overall goal is to get ourselves healthier, but the process done in a certain way e.g. racing to the gym and putting our bodies through a gruelling workout every day, can be a major stressor on the body, and end up having the opposite effect on your health than you were aiming for. You may find that a regular yoga or pilates class could give as good results, so good for the whole body, stretching and toning and reducing your stress levels at the same time. Even if you just switched one workout in the week for this slower paced one it really is a win-win for body and mind!

Something you can easily do at home is to do a few simple stretches, when you find a quiet moment or even before you get out of bed in the morning or last thing at night, so good and nourishing for the body, increasing flexibility and releasing tension!  

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Connection

Interaction with other people is so important for our wellbeing. Making time to spend quality time with your loved ones is so good for the soul and is a wonderful stress reducer. A great conversation with a colleague or a good old laugh with a friend reduces cortisol levels and shifts your body into parasympathetic mode.

The type of people we surround ourselves with can make a great difference. Negative people can bring you right down and increase your stress levels. Spending time with upbeat friends with things in common or shared interests can give a great feeling of connection and bonding. There’s no better health boost than surrounding yourself with positive people, who make you laugh! A good rule of thumb – ‘spend time with people who give you a buzz’!  

We can often feel too tired to socialise, but it’s worth making the effort to get out and meet friends. It needn’t involve alcohol or a late night, even a cuppa or a meal, just the chance to have that time to sit, talk and laugh. Laughter is the best medicine!

Relaxation

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Many of us don’t put enough emphasis on relaxation. Whether it’s lack of time or feeling like we should be doing something else or even that we don’t deserve it, whatever the reason we all fall down in this area. We need to take some time doing nothing just relaxing to recharge the batteries and give our bodies a rest from our hectic lives. Simply sitting and reading a book, watching a movie, taking in a show or a good comedian, going to a spa or simply taking a nap. That physical ‘allowing yourself’ is a major thing, just listening to your body and giving it the break it needs. Be good to yourself!

Sleep

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Getting enough sleep is paramount for good health. Lack of sleep can have a effect on our mood, stress levels, energy levels and even on what we eat. When we are tired chemicals are released making us crave carbs/sugar, making it more of a struggle to eat healthy.  When we are asleep is the time when the body does it repairing and regenerating. And the brain needs that time too, it actually shrinks at night and clears out plaque, so important for our health, the build up of this plaque in the brain has been associated with Alzheimers disease. 7-8 hours sleep is optimal, staying up too late or not getting enough hours of sleep can play havoc with our circadian rhythym, our internal clock, which regulates our 24 hour cycle of biological processes. Thats why everything seems better after a good sleep!

Purpose

Ikigai is a Japanese concept meaning “a reason for being”, it is very similar to the French phrase ‘raison d’etre’. Everyone, has an ikigai but finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Such a search is regarded as being very important, since it is believed that discovery of one’s ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning of life.

Finding our reason for being is not something that happens over night, but in small baby steps over months or years. A good start is simply listening to your body and following your heart every now and again, not always doing what you should be doing but what you would like to do. Taking up a new hobby, doing something spontaneous, or trying something you have always wanted to do. Take that time to allow you to be ‘you’, it will do wonders for your health, both mental and physical.

Setting goals is another way to instil some purpose into our lives. Goal setting is a powerful technique that gets you to visualise the end result and commit to that goal, the results are astounding in terms of productivity and achievement. Achieving ones goals can really boost confidence and self esteem, which is going to help our overall health.

Attitude

An attitude of gratitude is a serious health booster.  A good mantra is ‘talk more about your blessings than your problems’, this promotes positivity in yourself and those around you and the end result is a happier healthier you! A simple tip is – each night at bedtime take a minute to write down three things you are grateful for that happened today and also three things you aim to achieve tomorrow. It doesn’t matter how small! You will actually wake up in a better, more positive and motivated mood.

Mindfulness 

If you were to start one new thing today, let it be 5 mins of mindfulness or meditation. You will be amazed at how 5 mins (or even just 1 minute! Whatever you can manage) of uninterrupted sitting in silence, breathing, can change your whole mood and demeanour for the rest of the day. Stress levels decrease and the body is returned to parasympathetic nervous system, which means less stress hormones being released, which is going to have a huge impact on our physical health also, aswell as mental health.

So we must look at the full picture in order to achieve complete healthy. Nourishing the body with the appropriate food and movement and also nurturing ourselves with all of the above. 

Good Health!

Nutrition and wellness coaching - fussy eaters

Worried about fussy eaters?

Dealing with fussy eaters can be very frustrating! Trying day in day out to get them to eat the meals you make, constant dinner battles, worrying about their nutrition and even feeling guilty, it’s not pleasant. Well don’t lose hope! The first thing to remember is there is a lot you can do with kids as regards nutrition, without even going near their food! Leading my example, surrounding them with positive influences and educating them in a fun way about nutrition can set a seed with them and get them thinking (even subconciously) about food and health and can lead to better decisions down the line. Heres our top tips for handling fussy eaters and your stress levels!

Lead by example

The absolute best way to convey any message to kids is by letting them see you do it yourself. So focus on your own food first and that change alone is going to be a great education for your kids. They want to be like you and do what you do, so even if its not an instant change it is definitely passing a good message on to them, even subconsciously.

Get them involved

Getting kids to help with the shoping, prepping, cooking, baking is a great way to get an interest up in them around food and cooking and it reduces the mystery and fear around it all. With no pressure on them to even taste if they dont want to, but just to get involved and it can be a fun family activity too. Making a game out of identifying different veg in the supermarket or simple tasks like peeling veg, kids will love taking part.

Country Markets

An outing to a country market can be a nice family activity for everyone and a great learning experience. There are markets running in most areas now one day or other in the week. This can be a great outing for all ages, with loads of great produce on offer, you can even talk to the producers, kids can really get a feel from where the food comes from and what is involved in producing it. Other options like local producers, farm shops and open veg gardens, usually welcome visitors and this can be a great place to get great quality food at good prices.

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Positive influences

Simple things like reading books about nutrition and health can be a fun activity to get kids thinking about food. There are loads of kids books out now. Also on TV or online now there are cartoons and on devices loads of kids apps. As they get a little older then there are any amount of interesting movies and documentaries that you can watch together. Even colouring pictures, games, quizzes, there is so much available online nowadays and these will all be instilling a positive message.

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Grow your own

A fantastic project to start with kids is to grow something yourselves. Anything at all, no matter how small the garden, even a pot of lettuce or parsley, they will be amazed to see it grow and they will be so proud to see something they grew from a seed going into dishes!

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Reading labels & other activities

An activity kids can find fun is comparing labels of products, purely for interest sake, they will be amazed to see one pack has more sugar than another for example. A good way to do it is to get products that they like and then a similar more healthy alternative and compare products, it can get a discussion going and you never know where that might lead! A simple sugar demo is another activity that is very visual and effective with kids. Simple lay out products on a table, check the label for sugar content (4g=1 tsp) and spoon out that amount of sigar in front of the product, different cereals, biscuits, yogurts work well.

Classes

A cooking class or grow your own veg class could be a fun kids or family activity. There are classes like these running all over the country, if you do a search online or ask in your local area or health shop. Grow HQ in Waterford is definitely worth a visit, they offer great classes and information and you could visit the cafe and veg gardens too!

Tips on actually getting them to eat:

Well this could be another blog of its own, but heres some helpful hints!

Quality – focus first on what they are actually willing to eat and try to improve the quality of that. So if its chicken nuggets, make your own. If its a ham sandwich, try better quality bread (even get them involved in making your own!), boil a ham and sqitch spreads back to plain old butter. Yogurts, switch to a good quality natural probiotic yogurt and add your own fruit or blitzed berries and as little sweetness as you can get away with, whittling it down as their taste buds adapt. The better quality produce is going to be higher in nutrients and less damaging to their gut and health.

Try and try again – when introducing new foods, it can take up to 20 times trying something for a child to come around to it, sticker charts, little rewards can work really well to intice them to try, or they find Youtube clips on tasting foods, blindfold tasting etc very entertaining so maybe you could try an activity like that at home

Hidden goodies – a great way to boost nutrition, is in some food that they do actually like, start to ‘hide’ a small amount of something healthy, maybe blended veg or fruit or even bone broth, building it up very slowly, up are seriously boosting the nutritional value of the meal and their tastebuds will actually start to change over time. A tomato pasta sauce with a little hidden onion, garlic, courgette, pepper, carrot can give them a serious nutrient boost

Take your opportunity – we are all talk about mindful eating, not eating in front of screens etc but when it comes to very fussy kids this could actually work in your favour the odd time. Those moments when they are slightly zoned out watching TV slip a little bowl of chopped veg or fruit in front of them and you might be surprised they they might start munching when they are distracted!

Renaming – Homemade juices and smoothies are a great way to hide some goodies also, renaming a veg & strawberry smoothie with a (little avocado & coconut oil!) a ‘nice strawberry milkshake’, even the tiniest amounts of the good stuff you add in are going to have a benefit.

Good luck!

gut-health

Gut health – the basics

‘Gut’ is a real buzz word at the moment. There is so much information flying around it can be easy to get bamboozled and even the terminology can sound so complicated, it can be hard to get your head around it. But it need not be too difficult, hopefully this blog can simplify it for you.

Our gut is an extremely important part of our body for a number of reasons:

  • the gut holds trillions of bacteria, approx ten times more bacteria than cells, we are literally more bacteria than human
  • there are thousands of different types of bacteria, and the specific balance of them is very important for good health
  • our gut lining contains its own immune system, which can have an impact on the rest of the body
  • a gut-brain link is being widely researched in recent years

Our gut lining is made up of tight junctions which is built to let through only the tiniest particles and nutrients. So in an ideal world with nothing to irritate the gut lining and food being chewed sufficiently, the gut would work just fine. Unfortunately this doesn’t describe the modern world we live in. Todays busy lifestyle, means rushing our food, insufficient chewing and poor digestion. As well as a constant stream of toxins, alcohol, smoking, medications, antibiotics, stress all of which can have a detrimental effect on our gut lining.

With these factors weakening the gut wall, the once tight junctions begin to loosen, this is known as leaky gut or intestinal permeability. Chewing our food well is a very important part of digestion. Insufficiently chewing our food puts stress on the digestive system, adding to its workload and the result is that bigger particles of food than are desireable arrive in the gut. The loosened junctions then make it possible for these bigger food particles, as well as toxins and microbes to pass through the gut wall and these can cause inflammation in the body, due to an immune reaction being initiated. The immune system sees these particles as foreign invaders and starts to attack them. These particles can even get lodged in our tissues and then the immune systems starts to attack the tissue also, and this is where we get into the scary area of autoimmunity, the body attacking itself.

Maybe you have low energy or mood issues, food sensitivities or even food intolerances or  digestive issues. Poor gut health could be causing you problems! So what can be done? Well a great place to start is with gut repair and healing the gut wall.

Some very easy daily tips can really help:

  • start the day with a glass of lemon water with 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • make bone broth a part of your daily diet, a great habit to get into is to boil an organic chicken once a week, to keep you in bone broth all week long, add it to dishes or just have as is as a hot drink
  • stewed cooking apples with cinnamon are great for gut healing
  • add more veg and fruit to your diet, both cooked and raw
  • add a green juice to your daily routine (cabbage is great for gut healing if you could squeeze a little of that in!)
  • slow down your eating, chew each bite 20-30 times, remember your gut has no teeth!
  • try to reduce stress, especially around meal times, take a few dep breaths before eating
  • reduce snacking where possible, each 3 good meals and have a good break in between to give your digestion a break
  • reduce alcohol, caffeine and sugar as well as processed and fried foods
  • add fermented foods to your diet, saurkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso, kombucha, kefir
  • use coconut oil as your cooking oil, it is much more stable at high temperatures and has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties
  • reduce allergens in your diet such as gluten, wheat and dairy. Listen to your body and if you feel something doesnt agree with you try elminating it for 3 weeks and see if you notice a difference off it, or on reintroduction

Down the line if you wanted to do further investigations into your gut health a Nutritional Therapist can arrange a Comprehensive Diagnostic Stool Analysis, which can tell us so much about whats going on in the gut in terms of the balance of bacteria and even infection

Great books to inform yourself further are ‘Eat Dirt’ by Dr Josh Axe, ‘Gut’ by Giulia Enders, ‘Healthy Gut, Happy You’ by Jennifer Albuqurque, ‘Brain Maker’ by David Perlmutter, ‘The G Plan Diet’ by Amanda Hamilton and ‘10% Human’ by Alanna Collen

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Good Health!

Food for Thought

Oct 10 is World Mental Health Day. Mental health is something that affects all of us. We will all have experience of either someone close to us or ourselves suffering from some sort of mental health issues at some stage of our lives.

So few of us make the link between mental health and something as simple as the food we are eating. But it can make a huge difference in some cases. Within our bodies all the different functions and systems require different nutrients in order to work efficiently. And the brain is no different, without these nutrients, we can easily start to feel ‘not right’. A person might not be eating well, or they may be eating the right foods but they may not be absorbing the nutrients due to poor gut health or low stomach acid, for example. A whole section of our nervous system sits in our gut, often referred to as our ‘second brain’, so an unhealthy gut is going to play havoc with our mental health.

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Of course antidepressants have their place and they are a lifesaver for many people. But they dont suit everyone and in some cases they can make matters drastically worse, adding more chemicals into an already overloaded body, giving our body even more to deal with, the liver more to detox and damaging the gut further. So it can be a vicious circle! In this instance taking a holistic approach to our mental health can be a great option. Visiting a nutritional therapist or functional medicine practioner coupled with the help of a mental health practitioner can be a very helpful natural approach.

For all of us, no matter how well we are feeling, it is really important to look after our mental health, because when we are feeling bad often we are not motivated to do anything. So setting up these good habits when we are feeling good means they will be established and almost second nature then when we are not feeling our best. We hear of people talking about exercise and meditation being ‘great for the head’, well your food can do the same in its own way!

The brain is predominantly made up of fat. Eating a diet rich in good fats is going to benefit you immensely and promote a healthily functioning brain. Wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, avocado, beneficial oils, nuts and seeds are all great sources. Fish oil supplements such as MoreEPA can also be a great option.

Amino acids are also very important for brain health, for example in the making of our neurotransmittors. We get these from the protein we eat, for example our meat or fish. It is important to focus on the quality of these products. Organic and local would be the best, as the chemicals and drugs added to cheaper generic meats can actually be damaging to the brain.

And vitamins and minerals are exceptionally important, namely calcium, potassium, magnesium, Vit B6, Vit B3, VIt B12, folic acid, Vit D, Zinc. A varied wholefoods diet rich in leafy green veg, nuts, seeds, wholegrains will get all of these in. A multinutrient supplement may also be beneficial in some cases.

In the world we live in today we have a lot of mental and physical stresses coming at us. Stress and toxins can cause free radicals and oxidative damage in the body, we need antioxidants in our diet to combat this. Eating a variety of brightly coloured fruits and veg will really help here.

Gluten can have a negative effect on brain health in some cases. In the case of someone with a compromised gut, gluten can play havoc with the whole body including the brain and eliminating it has seen fantastic results in some cases. Even just choosing a more traditional grain or product can make a difference. There are great alternatives available now like spelt, quinoa, buckwheat, millet and sourdough bread is widely available now too which is great.   

Here are some handy tips on how to incorporate this into everyday meals:

Breakfast

Eggs are fantastic brain food, add some veg for a seriously nutritious start to the day. Try a side of spinach, tomatoes & avocado.

Smoothies or smoothie bowls are such a handy place to squeeze in lots of great nutrients. Veg, fruit, avocado, nuts, seeds, oils, lecithin, even multinutrient or green powders and probiotics can all be added to a morning smoothie for a great boost first thing!

If porridge is your thing, go for a nice gluten free brand. Porridge is a great base for adding lots of goodies. Nuts and seeds, especially ground like flax, lecithin, gojis, nut butters, berries, the list is endless, theres a different option for everyday of the week.  

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Snacks

Nuts are serious brain boosters and seeds too. Nut and seed butters are dead handy for snacking. Almond butter on an apple or seed butter on veg sticks are great.

Hummus and dips like pesto are other good snacking options too with veg sticks or seed/oat crackers, handy and portable and really tasty.

If you prefer a sweeter option try some dark chocolate melted with your favourite nuts and seeds added, refridgerate and break into pieces.

Or power balls are great too, the perfect place to fit in ingredients like tahini and cacao, high sources of calcium and magnesium.

Berries also are great as they are high in antioxidants. A handy snack with a handful of nuts/seeds.

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Lunch/Dinner

Main meals can be packed with lots of colourful veg for lots of antioxidants, these will combat any oxidative stress going on in the body.

A good quality source of protein should be added to all meals to keep blood sugar stable and those amino acids will give the nervous system the raw materials it needs to make those neurotransmitters.

Antiinflammatories in the form of herbs and spices can be added into all dishes from curries to salads.

Extra Virgin olive oil and apple cider vinegar are great additions to salad dressings

Coconut oil is great for cooking with or drizzling over cooked veg

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Drinks

Dehyrdation can have a terrible effect on the mind. Plenty of water is needed to keep you fully hydrated. Filtered or mineral water are preferable as you can be sure they are free of any toxins or heavy metals. A squeeze of lemon juice or a dash of apple cider vinegar in a glass of warm water has great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Herbal teas are great. The likes of chamomile is very calming and relaxing. Rooibos, high in antioxidants, is a great alternative to a regular black tea, which can leach nutrients from the body.

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Happy eating! And remember the food we eat can build us up or break us down, listen to your body, see what makes you feel good and bad. Fuel your body with natural whole foods your body and mind will reap the benefits. Good luck! 

Easy steps to a new you

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The Summer can be a difficult time to keep healthy with lots of BBQs, visitors, drinks, it can be easy to fall out of your healthy habits. Everyone will be getting back to the routine come September. There is a tendency, like at New Year, to go mad, making drastic changes trying to offset the damage done over the Summer, or maybe lose a little holiday weight. Quite often these changes don’t take hold as it was all a bit too much too soon. Little gradual changes are a great way to instil good healthy habits that will last a lifetime.  One change at a time, giving each change a chance to settle in and then moving on to the next one, while keeping the previous one going. Soon all these little changes add up to a whole new you!

Here we’ve laid out 52 small changes for you to add one small change each week of the year, which could mean a new and improved you this time next year! Print the list and stick on your fridge and follow the list or pick and choose as you like, checking off as you go. Good luck!
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1. Drink more water (filtered or bottled)
2. Eat more vegetables
3. Eat more fruit
4. Add more green to your diet
5. Add seeds to your daily diet
6. Eat a variety of nuts
7. Eat protein at every meal/ snack
8. Eat a little avocado each day
9. Eliminate gluten
10. Drink lemon water every morning
11. Add beneficial oils e.g extra virgin olive oil
12. Change marg/spreads to real butter
13. Cook with coconut oil
14. Try goats milk, raw milk or nut milks
15. Use natural beauty products
16. Add an extra half hour exercise a day
17. Eliminate dairy
18. Try alternative grains e.g oats, millet, buckwheat, spelt
19. Add nut/seed butters to your day
20. Change all white to brown
21. Cut out sugar
22. Add a little seaweed to your diet
23. Add sprouts to your diet (maybe sprout your own!)
24. Go to a country market
25. Make your own soup
26. Plant some veg
27. Grow your own herbs
28. Keep blood sugar balanced by eating regular low GI meals/snack (no 6 helps with this)
29. Change to dark chocolate (you can gradually move from milk to 70%, to 85% & 90%)
30. Eat mindfully
31. Use more herbs & spices
32. Eat more brightly coloured fruit/veg e.g beetroot, blueberries
33. Use flaxseed/ chia seeds
34. Freeze banana/avocado/berries for smoothies
35. Prep meals the night before
36. Keep a food diary
37. Practice mindfulness/ meditation
38. Chew food well (each bite at least 20 times)
39. Drink herbal tea
40. Don’t rush food only eat when calm, take a few belly breaths first
41. Try a green juice/smoothie
42. Keep healthy snacks where u need them to avoid reaching for wrong thing
43. Read labels
44. Eat local food
45. Eat more oily fish (tinned salmon/mackerel is an easy option)
46. Up your 5 a day to 8 or more a day (fit veg/fruit into every meal/snack)
47. Eat fermented food e.g kimchi, kefir, etc
48. Add good quality natural probiotic yogurt to your day
49. Have a few vegetarian days in the week
50. Eat organic
51. Read up on the benefit of healthy eating, recipes, etc , do your own research
52. Cut down alcohol

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Breaking Bad Habits

As parents we are all conscious of the amount of treats our kids are eating. There is no getting away from them, we are bombarded everywhere we go, when you are doing the shopping, getting petrol, at parties, from grandparents, at playdates, at the swimming pool, even teachers, there are treats coming from every angle. Of course sometimes it can’t be helped and we wouldn’t want to deny them completely, but we only have to look at the obesity crisis in this country to see that kids today are eating too many treats. And we can’t blame kids for wanting them, biscuits, sweets, ice-creams all laden with sugar are literally addictive.  If we take a look at a week in the average household, Mum gives a treat for good behaviour one day, ‘that’s ok it’s just the one’ she thinks, another day Dad gives a treat, then Nanny arrives with treats and there’s a friend’s birthday party, teachers gives a little treat for the class, an ice-cream for a sunny day, so without even thinking there’s treats every day of the week. So what can we do about it? Here are some simple tips for breaking bad habits.

Make a treat a treat

The definition of the word treat is an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure. A treat isn’t a treat if it’s happening every day or a few times a day. There will of course be times we want to ‘treat’ our kids, but there are other ways, a nice family outing, a new toy or book, we don’t have to damage their health in order to treat them, the phrase ‘killing them with kindness’ comes to mind.

Start at home

You as a parent are a sure place you can cut down on treats. You could make yours a ‘treat-free’ house, if it’s not in the cupboard they won’t be asking for it. Make home a haven of healthy eating and go out once a week for a treat or bring something in to the home especially as a treat. Cut out giving treats yourself, and don’t feel guilty about it, you can be sure they will get plenty elsewhere. Feel happy in the knowledge you are treating them to good health instead!

80/20 % rule (or even better 90/10%)

Of course we don’t want to deny our kids completely, so adopting an 80/20 rule can be helpful, where the aim is to have them eating really healthy 80% of the time but allowing for some treats the odd time. Making their diet up of lots of fresh fruit and veg, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and wholegrains is going to give them all the nutrition they need to thrive, unlike the empty calories of sweets, biscuits and other sugary treats. Making yours a ‘healthy eating’ home will make this rule easy to implement.

Snack time

We can easily fall into a habit of confusing treats and snacks. Sweets, biscuits and other sugary treats should be eaten occasionally while snacks defined as ‘a portion of food, smaller than a regular meal, generally eaten between meals’, are a thing to be eaten every day to tide us over between meals and to stabilise blood sugar. A treat in this situation is going to do exactly what you don’t want, it will send your blood sugar soaring, only to come crashing back down, sending you off looking for another sugary treat next time, so it’s a vicious circle. A nutritious snack is going to taste good, boost their nutrients and avoid cravings of sugar later on.

Snacks

There are lots of great ideas for making both snacks and treats from good healthy whole food ingredients. The likes of fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, nut butters, coconut oil, dates are fantastic for making healthy sweet bites that are going to be far more nutritious and lower sugar having a beneficial effect on your health. For savoury snacks, any combination of whole foods is perfect. Its all about making your food not only tasty, but tasty and nutrient dense. So it not only feels good while you are eating it, but also after it also leaves you feeling great, unlike sugary treats which can taste nice at the time, but leave us feeling a bit rubbish after.

Water

Changing from juice to water is a great way to reduce kids sugar intake. Even sugar free juice is not a great alternative as the artificial sweeteners used in them can be harmful to health and also are going to give kids a sweeter tooth. It might not be as hard as you think to make the change to a ‘water only’ drinks policy. If you can persevere through the first few tough days you will surprised how kids come around and just go with it after a while. Kids are naturally adaptable, but they are persistent too and strong willed! so you’ll need to be tough for a few days and stick to your guns. Simply saying ‘we’re out of juice’ and showing the empty bottle can be enough to appease them. Adding fruit to water can be a fun way to get them interested, or sometimes they are taken with the little kids water bottles, or a fancy drinks bottle might work too. When they are thirsty they will drink!!

Good luck!!

Top 20 healthy activities

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Summer’s here at last! It’s great to see the weather getting better and we’re moving things outdoors again after the hibernation of our Irish winter. Life is hectic and in our downtime there’s always phones, TV and electronic devices tempting the whole family to stay inside, rather than getting out. There may be an initial moan or groan, but getting out in the fresh air always ends with a smile on the face and feeling better, more energetic. So we’ve come up with a list of 20 fun ‘healthy’ activities for all the family. These activities are a great way to teach kids (and grown ups!) about getting out and enjoying good healthy locally produced food.

  1. Visit a country market
  2. Have a picnic on the beach
  3. Dig a veggie patch
  4. Visit a local producer
  5. A walk in the woods with a packed lunch
  6. Plant some seeds or a fruit tree
  7. Get the kids in the kitchen – some healthy baking, fruit kebabs, pancakes
  8. Make a trip to an alternative eatery, something you haven’t tried before
  9. Visit the English Market in Cork
  10. Have some fun making food art
  11. A long cliff or seaside walk, followed by a well earned dinner
  12. Watch an educational foodie movie, ‘That Sugar Film’ is great
  13. Have a participation party, make your own healthy pizza or crepes
  14. Have fun experimenting with different juices/smoothies
  15. Visit a food festival, make a weekend of it! Wexford is coming up!
  16. Research cooking workshops in your area, they are popping up all over
  17. Attend a foodie talk or seminar, there’s always something to learn!
  18. Visit an open farm
  19. Explore a kitchen garden at a local hotel/house
  20. A fishing trip, the look on the face when there’s a bite on the line is priceless!

So go on, get out and enjoy!

Getting Healthy

Making the decision to ‘get healthy’ can be a daunting one. Trying lots of new different foods, starting up new activities, with new people, can all be very scary things to do. There is so much conflicting advice in the media, it’s hard to know where to start! The good news is that just making that conscious decision to make some changes is the first major step of the process. So you’re one step closer to your goal already!

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Here’s our top tips on how getting healthy can be a painless and enjoyable experience:

Support

It’s important to have people to support you in your challenge. It can be a very enjoyable journey but like anything there may be ups and downs along the way and it is so good to have someone to chat to about what you are doing and any hurdles you come up against. Whether you are joined a gym or a group, have friends taking on the challenge with you, or just have someone giving you emotional support, it’s important to have someone there for you. And it’s also good to remember to surround yourself with people who want you to succeed in your goal, not people who are going to be tempting you back into your old ways!

Positive Attitude

Your physiological approach to your challenge can make such a difference to your experience. It can be an exciting one full of opportunities to eat new foods and try new things or it can be a torturous time of denying yourself and hard work, which ever way you want to think about it! Concentrate on the positives, focus on all the foods you CAN eat rather than all the foods you can’t, how great you feel after the workout rather than the pain you feel while you are going through it!

Start Slow

Start nice and gradually, with a simple goal for your first week. Maybe pick 2 things to add in, say more water and more veg, rather than cutting things out right away. Then add things in week by week & start cutting out the baddies slowly, as time goes on. Take it in baby steps, conquering one step at a time, giving yourself a big pat on the back for each step in the right direction.

Stick With It

So often we have a few good weeks then fall off the wagon and we get defeated and throw in the towel completely and we are back to square one. This is so important to acknowledge that we are only human, and have to allow ourselves a little room for manoeuvre. So if there is a little blip or bad day, don’t dwell on it, just start over the very next morning and plough on. You won’t have done too much damage in one day! Maybe even add in a little extra activity the next day to offset the damage if you feel like it.

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Food Diary

A food diary is a great exercise to do when you are trying to clean up your diet. Be as honest as you can, add in every morsel you put into your mouth. This can be really eye opening and makes you stop and think before you eat. It can make you aware if you are doing some unconscious eating and can make you more mindful of what you are eating. You can even add in any symptoms you may be experiencing after eating, this is a great way to become more aware of your body and your digestion, what foods agree with both you and those that don’t.

Slow Down

Slowing down your eating is a great tip for getting healthy. Eating too quickly and not chewing enough plays havoc with your stomach acid and enzymes and in turn your gut health. Sitting down, even taking a few deep breaths before you start eating and chewing every bite at least 20 times will ensure that your digestion is working properly, allow you to absorb more nutrients and keep everything working as it should.

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Focus on Health rather than weight

So many people are focused solely on losing weight, denying themselves, spending days hungry & miserable, trying to eat less calories to lose weight, when in fact quite often this is encouraging their body to hold on to fat. It’s a much better idea to focus on health rather than weight, and in the end one follows the other. In order to be healthy, it’s important to be eating enough of the right foods, especially when you are physically active. A varied wholefoods diet with a good mix of protein, good carbs and good fats is going to keep you satisfied all day long, keeping blood sugar balanced and in the long run keeping you healthy. Don’t focus on the number on the scales, more on the benefits you are feeling!

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Organisation

Being organised and prepared is the key to success in anything and it’s no different with getting healthy. Setting out meal plans for the week is a great idea, getting organised on the weekend or at the beginning of the week will keep you on the right track all week. Having meals prepared in the fridge ready to pull out is a great way to stop you snacking on things you shouldn’t at those times when you are under time pressure or really hungry. Having the cupboards stocked with the foods you need and free of all the baddies is going to make your challenge a lot easier.

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Our top 10 places to start to get healthier:

1.More water

2.More veg & fruit

3.More good fats

4.Add protein to every meal/ snack

5.Eat more fish

6.More vegetarian meals

7.Cut down on sugar & processed foods

8. Slow down & chew more

9.More movement

10. More relaxation

‘Let Food Be Your Medicine’

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Hippocrates is famous for having said ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’ all those years ago, yet his message seems to have gone somewhat unheard. The world population is now sicker and fatter than it has ever been and the situation is only due to get worse. So many people are unwell and find themselves in the position where they have to take all sorts of medications, which comes with its own side effects. Of course pharmacuetical drugs have their place and we are very grateful for them in many situations. But you have to wonder when you read Anne Wilmore’s quote ‘The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison’. What about the situation where a person is being medicated for a condition that their diet is actually causing?

Our ancestors didn’t suffer from diabetes, heart disease or coeliac disease. We have to stop and ask ourselves why? The key is that they ate a simple diet of natural, organic wholefoods diet, free of refined foods, sugar and processed foods. They say ‘you are what you eat’, but literally to bring it down to a biochemical level, the foods we eat make their way into our blood, tissues, cells, DNA. Poor dietary choices are making our bodies sick. The results of putting good clean food into our bodies is evident almost immediately in our skin, our eyes, our digestion, our energy levels!

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The body’s functions and systems run by using specific nutrients. Without these nutrients the body isn’t able to run efficiently and things start to go wrong. Inflammation in the body is the result. It often begins with smaller signs, like warning signals, maybe a rash or rhinitis, which if ignored can progress on to bigger signs and symptoms and sadly often a chronic condition. Unfortunately there is so much conflicting information in the media almost every day it makes it very complicated and confusing for people. You just getting started trying to implement one healthy eating habit, and the next thing you read something telling you its bad for you, its no wonder people get frustrated and throw in the towel and go back to their comfort foods that ‘make them feel good’. Many studies now are advocating the health benefits of a whole foods diet, rich in plants, free of refined foods.

The medicinal properties of food is a hot topic right now. Here are some practical ways you can fit plenty of the best types of restorative health promoting foods into your daily diet, and keep the bad guys out. Making a few changes in the kitchen might just lead to a few changes at the doctor or pharmacy!

Breakfast

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Start the day with a large glass of lemon water, or warm lemon water with a dash of apple cider vinegar & a little local honey. Make this a morning ritual, it is the ideal way to kick start your digestion, while also detoxing and cleansing. Apple Cider vinegar is a great anti-inflammatory and lemon is packed with vitamin C. You’re body will be dehydrated after the nights sleep so this is the perfect time to rehydrate.

Breakfast is an ideal place to pack in lots of fruit, whether it be eaten as is, in a smoothie or juice, added to cereal. Nuts & seeds are also great to add into any of these. Nut butters are also a great addition to breakfast time. Fruits and nuts are going to give you a burst of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and omegas. Enjoy lots of variety and different colours, these guys have some serious health benefits. Veg can easily be incorporated into your morning with a green smoothie or juice. This is also a great way to get some greens into smallies without them even realising. A Nutribullet or good juicer is a great investment.

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Dairy can be cut out of breakfast easily with all the alternative milks & yogurts available these days, coconut, almond, oat, soya, there are so many, just try a few out and find one you like. If you’re looking to go gluten free, there are a lot of gluten free options available nowadays, be careful though, as some ‘gluten free’ can still be very much refined, processed or sugar laden. Making your own breads and cereals is a sure way to know exactly what it is you are eating. There are some fabulous recipes now for breads containing buckwheat, quinoa, millet, banana, the list goes on….Cereal alternatives liked smoothie bowls and chia pudding are also great for breakfast time.

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Lunch / Dinner

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Lunch & Dinner are the perfect place to pack in lots of colourful veg & fruit. Whatever you are having supplement it with extra veg or salad, try and add some raw as these are packed with health boosting enzymes. Even fruit goes great in salads. Experiment with different grains like quinoa, brown rice or bulgar, these make a great base for salads. A good olive oil or even Udos oil and apple cider vinegar makes a great salad dressing. Sprouted seeds and beans are very easy to add in just about anywhere, with serious health benefits. If you’re eating out, look into what’s available in your area, there are lots of restaurants popping up now with healthy menus.

Soups are a fantastic lunch option that can be packed with lots of different veg and things like lentils, beans or grains also go great in them to. Seed or oat crackers can make a good alternative to bread.

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It’s a good idea to have a couple of days in the week without meat. This gives your a body a rest, as meat can be tough on the digestive system. Maybe opt for fish a couple of times a week, high in omegas or opt for a nice vegetarian dish using lots of veg and beans or lentils, great sources of protein, fibre & micronutrients. Cutting down on meat can reduce inflammation, cholesterol and improve your gut health.

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Studies are showing that it is better to eat less as the day goes on, so maybe you could have your main meal at lunch time and eat a lighter dish later on. This gives your digestive system a rest as it is slowing down later in the day and gives it plenty of time to recover for the next day. Try to keep meat or fish organic and local and free range where possible. Eat lots of green veg. Some wholegrains or root veg like sweet potato or butternut squash.

Snacks

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Snack time is a great place to add in the likes of raw veg sticks, fruit and nuts and seeds. These foods are so handy for a quick snack at home, in the office or on the go. Foods like these are going to have a lower glycemic index, which means they cause less of a spike in blood sugar than a slice of white bread, for example.Having regular small low GI snacks is a great way to keep blood sugar stable, which is paramount for good health. Constant blood sugar highs and lows can have a detrimental effect on health, leading in some cases to insulin resistance and later diabetes.

Drinks

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Drinking lots of water is one of the best things we can do for our health. Keeping our body sufficiently hydrated is going to mean that all body functions and systems are working efficiently. Drinking tea and coffee all day long is actually going to dehydrate you, as well as play havoc with your energy levels. You might feel like you can’t live without your morning caffeine hit, but limiting your caffeine intake can have a positive effect on your liver health, your energy, your skin, your sleep. Juices and even flavoured waters are packed with hidden sugars, or worse carcinogenic sweeteners like aspartame. Non caffeinated herbal teas are also good, with different ones supporting different aspects of health. A drink made with apple cider vinegar is going to have great antiinflammatory effects.

Eat Local

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Eating locally sourced food is a great way to ensure the quality of your food. Local country markets and producers are going to have the best of fresh organic produce from your local area. Empower yourself by knowing where your food has come from and how it has been produced, you’re much better off with food grown and produced in your area, than that flown half way around the world and pumped with chemicals.

Eat Green

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So many experts are now advocating the simple message ‘eat more plants’, this is an easy one to implement, by simply adding lots more fruit and veg to your daily diet. Add more green wherever possible. At every meal make sure to have some element of green. Blended in smoothies, soups or sauces is a great way to get more greens into kids.

Reduce allergens

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Cutting down on the likes of gluten and dairy is going to do wonders for your digestion, and your gut health. Studies are now showing that the state of our gut health has an impact on our health in general, poor gut health and leaky gut are contributing to increased inflammation and compromised immune systems. Cut down on allergens in your diet and you will cut down on inflammation in your system and your risk of developing chronic inflammation.

Protect your gut health

Alcohol, antibiotics, medications, are just some of the things that damage our gut health. In this day and age almost everyone’s gut bacteria has most likely been compromised in some way. Taking a daily probiotics, eating lots of veg and adding some fermented foods to your diet are great ways to boost gut health.

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