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Get the kids into the kitchen

Kids love nothing more than getting involved, getting their hands dirty and doing an activity together with siblings or parents. Sometimes they may need a little nudge, with all the distractions available these days, but once you get started they love it and the love tasting thre results even more!

This is such a great way to get kids learning about food and even to get fusy eaters to try new foods. Having some input into the recipe and the making of the food really empowers kids and makes them feel very grown up.

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With 1 in 4 kids overweight or obese, we really need to get down to their level and start showing them basic kitchen skills and teaching them about food from an early age, if they are to have a hope of a healthy adult life.

So some very easy options for you to start off with! All of these are no-bake so you dont have to worry!

Treat Balls

Soak 2 handfuls of dates in  2 tbsp boiling water. Blend 100g nuts, pecans and almonds go down well with kids. Seperately blend the dates & water into a paste. In a bowl mix dates, nuts, 4 tbsp cacao powder, a little honey or maple syrup to taste. You can play around with it, maybe they would like to add raisans or other dried fruit. Have fun then shaping them into balls and rolling in cacao, coconut or ground almonds. They’ll love getting their hands dirty!

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Smoothies and Smoothie bowls

Kids love making smoothies. Lay out lots of fruit and veg, nut/goats milk, coconut water and give them the freedom to choose what they want to put in. Try out different combinations. Make one yourself also and show them that things like a little carrots, lettuce, peeled courgette, celery, beetroot don’t actually make that much difference to the taste (try them individually at first and celery and beetroot just a small chunk at first!) If you want to get adventurous, add in avocado, nuts, seeds, milled flax or chia.

For a smoothie bowl simply add less liquid, so its good and thick and eat out of a bowl rather than drinking it. This can be a great alternative to a breakfast cereal. Top with nuts, seeds, raisians, whatever you like.

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No bake granola bars

Blend 100g nuts and 100g seeds, to a rough mix rather than a fine powder (or go with finer if you want to hide them!). Melt 3 tbsp almond butter and 3 tbsp coconut oil and then blend with a banana. Handful of gluten free oats (optional). Blend 2 handfuls of soaked dates to a paste. Mix nuts, seeds, dates, almond butter, coconut oil, dates and banana. They’ll love mixing this gloupy mess and licking the spoon! Press into a shallow tray/dish and refridgerate. You can tp with a little dark choc if you like. Once chilled cut into bars and store in a lunch box, if you can keep them that long!

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Simple chocolate dipping bowl

Cocktail sticks, fruit and dark chocolate, this is the easiest crowd pleaser around! Prepare chunks of fruit, kids can get to work on peeling bananas picking off grapes, washing thr fruit, etc, while you do the chopping. Melt a bar of dark chocolate in the microwave, taking care not to burn, or over a banemarie (pot of boiling water on the hob!). Add a touch of honey or coconut oil to taste if its too bitter. Set up the fruit around the bowl of chocolate, give every one a cocktail stick or fork and dig in! This one doesn’t last too long!!

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Fruit Stacks

These are great little snacks. Simply slice banana, apple of pear and stack with a nut butter spread between each slice. Top with a little chopped nuts, chia seeds or sesame seeds. Berries work great too. Fill raspberries with almond butter or strawberries topped with a little coconut cream are great! Great fun playing around with different combinations!

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Nicecream

Banana based icecream is a great one if you have any dairy intolerance in the house. But regardless this is a tasty easy to make icecream substitute that the kids will love! Chop banana and freeze. Blend from frozen, adding whatever flavour you prefer, vailla extract, fresh strawberry or cacao powder. Sweeten as you need with a little good quality local honey or maple syrup.

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Chocolate Bark

Another quick and easy one, simply melt dark chocolate and add whatever takes your fancy, chopped nuts, seeds, chia, dried fruit, fresh fruit, anything. Lay flat on greaseproof paper and refridgerate. Once chilled, crack into sections and enjoy!!

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Down the line if you want to start getting more adventurouror as they are getting older and are able for more, the possibilites are endless:

  • Oat Cookies are a great one, just a one bowl mix, make a log, chop into cookies and lay on the tray
  • Healthy Buns are the same, bung the mix in the food processoror Nutri Bullet and into the muffin tin
  • Buckwheat Pancakes are a real winner, again make the mix in the Nutribullet or blender, add some extras at the last minute like raisans, blueberries or dark choc chips and into the frying pan, supervising of course!
  • Helping to prepare the dinner, prepping veg etc if they are old enough to use a sharp knife!
  • Making salads, using a grater is a handy way, or a grater in a food processor can be so quick and. Grated beetroot, carrot and apple goes down very well with smallies!
  • Play around with making dressings can be good too, all you need is a jar with a lid, 3 parts extra virgin olive oil to 1 part apple cider vinegar, and then whatever else you want to add e.g. honey/maple, tamari/soya sauce, salt & pepper, herbs, spices, coconut milk, tahini, lemon, lime, orange. Experiment!

Have Fun!

 

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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A New Year, A New You

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With the New Year approaching and the Christmas fun and festivities behind us, we are all thinking about some changes we might make in the year ahead, whether it be to make us healthier, fitter, slimmer, more successful. So often with Resolutions, we take on too much too soon and then after a couple of weeks we get overwhelmed, throw in the towel and go back to square one. When it comes to good health and setting up real lasting changes, the best tip is ‘slow and steady wins the race’. Don’t take on too many changes at once. Try one small change at time and give yourself a chance to implement it fully. Did you know that doing something every day for three weeks, it becomes a habit? ! No doubt everyone would like to make 2016 a healthier one! Here we’ve laid out a list of our top suggestions for some very doable and easy to implement New Years resolutions for 2016.

More Vegetables

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Adding a good variety of colourful veg to your meals and snacks is going to give your body and mind a blast of the nutrients it needs to function properly. A perfect start to the year, after the over indulgence of the festive season. Start the new year with a good blast of veg to help detox your system. Smoothies and juices are a great way to pack in lots of nutrients in one blast. Greens, brassicas like broccoli and cabbage and sulphur rich foods like onion and garlic are going to do wonders for your liver health, after all that Christmas alcohol! Change your five a day to eight a day with at least five of those being veg. This doesn’t have to be as huge change from your usual meals or routine, at lunch maybe add a side salad or add extra veg to your dinner, try to make veg green and less starchy that bit later in the evening. At snack times, try raw veg sticks or slices of cucumber instead of bread or crackers, great with dips like hummus. Have a good variety throughout the week to ensure you are getting a good range of nutrients.

More Fruit

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Adding more fruit, a good mix of different types and colours is going to give a great boost to your health, more nutrients will lead to more energy, better skin, brighter eyes, everything basically will start working better! Try and get into the habit of adding fruit or veg in to every meal and snack. At breakfast in a smoothie or fruit added to porridge, or try a smoothie bowl. At snack times add fruit too, maybe swap out your usual cracker for slices or apple instead, great with peanut butter! And remember changes like these are not about denying yourself, use fruit in desserts and treats, things like dark chocolate dipped strawberries or a nice banana ‘ice-cream’ are delicious.

More water

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This is a very easy resolution with great benefits. Water is essential for so many body functions and systems. Try to have at least 8 glasses of water a day. It is handy to carry a bottle around with you, in your bag or in the car or at your desk. If it is there in front of you, you are more likely to drink it. And if you don’t enjoy drinking plain water you could try sparkling, a good brand like San Pellegrino or you could add a squeez of lemon or lime, Cherry Active is another good option, very high in antioxidants, or make a nice vitamin water by adding a selection like cucumber, lime, mint to your water and let it infuse. There are some great bottles on the market now, for making this type of flavoured water, with a compartment for the veg and herbs at the bottom.

More green

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We already talked about veg above, but more specifically adding more green foods and drinks is going to be so beneficial for your health. These alkalising foods are packed full of nutrients, anti-inflammatories and antioxidants. Add green veg like spinach and kale to smoothies and juices or you could try a green powder like spirulina, chlorella or wheatgrass for an extra health boost. Lots of green veg and salads and juices and smoothies is going to have you bright as a button in no time :) Juice bars are popping up everywhere now, if you don’t have a juicer yourself, you could try and build it in to your weekly or daily routine, if there’s a juice bar near your work or home. Maybe opt for a green juice instead of a coffee sometimes, it’ll give you just as much of a boost if not more!!

Probiotics

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Our gut flora is not in the best shape at this time of year. Alcohol, antibiotics, sugary refined foods all play havoc with our gut bacteria, which when compromised has an effect on our health in general. Studies are now showing that our gut and brain are strongly connected and the state of our gut bacteria can play a huge role in our mental health as well as our physical health. What could be as easy as taking a course of probiotics to help repopulate the good guys, which will help crowd-out the baddies! Most health food stores stock these and will give you plenty of advice on the best ones.

Mindful Eating

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Still on the subject of gut health, why not try out some mindful eating in 2016. Slow down, relax, even take a few deep breaths before you start a meal. Try to eat without distractions, mindfully, chewing your food more, each bite at least 20 times. All this will have serious benefits for your digestion. It helps to get digestive juices flowing and all your digestive processes working efficiently and will mean that you are getting all the nutrients from your food, absorbing them properly.

More fats

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Fats have had a bad reputation for many years but now at last people are in agreement that fat, that is the good types of fats, is in fact good and necessary for our bodies and brains to function correctly. Nuts, seeds, avocados, good oils, are all extremely beneficial and can very easily be added into any daily diet in small amounts.

Spice things up

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Adding more herbs and spices to your meals is a real easy resolution to make this year. These guys are great anti-inflammatories and antioxidants. It is as easy as adding them to your shopping list. Most supermarkets now stock fresh herb plants or why not try sowing your own, in a pot within view of the kitchen, so you can add them in to whatever you are making. With all their vibrant colours and wide range of tastes there is loads here to choose from, something to add to any dish!

Less Sugar

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As fats rep is improving, thankfully sugar is finally being shown up for the trouble-maker it is. A great way to cut down on sugar is to make your own cereals, bars, treats at home, that’s way you know exactly what is going in. Using things like fruit, nuts, nuts butters, dark chocolate, a whole range of delicious sweet treats can be made without being laden with sugar. ‘Hidden sugar’ is a big topic right now. The trouble is with so-called ‘healthy foods’ like fruit yogurts, cereal bars, granolas etc being laden with sugar, or sugar under a different name.The trouble with sugar is that it sets your blood sugar spiking high and then low and we can get into this cycle which in time can lead to weight gain and insulin resistance which in turn can lead to diabetes. Cutting out plain old table sugar of course is going to have great health benefits, but also watch out for products which contain these hidden sugars, which leads us on to the next point of reading labels.

Read Labels

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Taking the time to inform yourself about nutritional labels and learning how to read them and understand them is one of the best things you can do. In today’s society we are so surrounded by packaged foods and at the mercy of their marketing telling us what they want us to believe, we need to take some of the power back ourselves and gain some knowledge and be able to decide for ourselves what is the right choice. As an experiment compare the nutritional labels on some products, say porridge oats versus a granola and compare the amounts of sugars, you will be surprised. A general rule of thumb when it comes to reading labels is the less ingredients, the better.

Inform yourself

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On a similar topic, reading up more on food and doing your own research is a great way to empower yourself on all things health and nutrition. It is now being proved that we literally are what we eat. We need to get more curious and knowledgeable about the foods we are putting into our mouths, where they come from and how they are made. And not just keeping taking the word of the food companies themselves and their marketing people. There are endless books available on the subject of food, nowadays there’s always newspaper articles, movies and documentaries, as well as some brilliant TedTalks that will really get you thinking about what you are eating.

Reduce allergens

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More and more now you will hear talk of ‘allergens’ and restaurants are now even detailing them on their menus now which is quite handy if you are trying to avoid them. Wheat, Gluten and Dairy are the main allergens people are avoiding, as many studies are showing them to be inflammatory to our bodies. Even if you are not allergic or intolerant, it would be beneficial for your body and health to cut down on these food groups. This might even start happening without you realising it if you are adding in more of the good stuff.

Remember – don’t focus on what you have to cut out but more what you can be adding in to your diet. The more of the good will leave less room for the bad stuff.

A very happy and healthy New Year to you all!!

Top foodie gift ideas this Christmas

Looking for something a little different this year for a Christmas gift? Have someone in your life with an interest in healthy eating, cooking & good food? Well look no further! We have everything from quirky kitchen gadgets to tasty healthy treats. From big wow gifts to smaller stocking fillers, here’s our top suggestions for Christmas gifts that will go down very well indeed!!

Nutribullet:

This popular blender is a great Christmas gift for anyone. It can be used for so many things in the kitchen, everything from smoothies to soups to sauces to nut butters. It blasts food while retaining all the nutrients for a really healthy result. The recipient of this gift will be thanking you for setting them on the right track for the New Year! The Nutribullet is widely available online or in Harvey Normans.

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Juicer:

A good juicer is another great idea for a big gift for someone special. Juicing is a great way to get extra nutrients into your diet, whether its just for a healthy eating enthusiast, or someone close to you maybe with health concerns or in need of a health kick, the benefits they will experience from juicing will make them mighty glad indeed of a present like this. Harvey Normans have a great range available. These aren’t cheap, but the better brands will last forever.

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Spiraliser:

This handy little gismo makes noodles & spirals out of any fruit & veg. Courgette noodles are a great alternative to spaghetti, or as the base of a salad. Apple spirals, carrot spirals, cucumber noodles, the list is endless. Hours of fun! And available at very reasonable prices. Try www.greenvalu.ie or www.amazon.co.uk

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Mandolin slicer:

A mandolin slicer is an absolute must in any kitchen. This creates thin slices, juliennes, chips out of veg and fruit in seconds. Amazing for making salads in a flash. Thin potato chips, apple crisps, cucumber pickle, vegetable crisps, coleslaw, there is so many things can be done with this bit of kit. Available online, will last you a lifetime!

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A cookery course:

Any avid foodie would love a gift of a cookery course. There are so many available these days! Everything from a general cookery course, to more specific courses like sushi, gluten free desserts, fish dishes, even foraging. And all different lengths of course from a few months to just one evening, something to suit everyone! Check out the great options available at the likes of Ballymaloe Cookery School, The Good Things Cafe in Skibereen, Cooks Academy Dublin, Organico in Bantry, Select Stores Dalkey.

Gift voucher for health food shop:

Any health conscious individual would be delighted with a voucher from their local health food store, or a bigger brand chain of health food stores. With so much available from cosmetics to supplements to food, they will have no trouble finding something they like and your voucher will go to great use.

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Herbs & Spices:

A set of potted herbs makes a gorgeous gift. You can buy ready made pots or you can very simply make your own. Small terracota pots painted up with a little blackboard paint works really well, this way you can write on the name of the herb in chalk and they can be changed over time if needs be. Or a nice spice set is another idea. Again shop bought or homemade is good.

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Subscription to organic veg box:

Many veg shops now offer a service where they provide customers with a regular weekly or fortnightly organic veg box delivered to their door. Only the best, fresh, in season, organic produce, what could make a better gift! Prices can be agreed on with the supplier, based on the size and frequency of the box. Simply contact a fruit & veg supplier in your local area.

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Zinger bottle:

This is one of our favourite stocking fillers. Zinger bottles, and other similar brands available now, have a section at the end to squeeze and store half a lemon so you can enjoy lemon water all day long. Other fruits can also be used for a nice vitamin water. Available easily online, or similar brands can be found in Centra stores.

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Sushi Kit:

This is another little novel stocking filler. With everything included in the set from the sushi mat to the wasabi, the recipient can have great fun trying out making their own sushi over the festive season. Sets like this can be found in health food stores or fine food stores quite easily.

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Homemade edible gifts:

Making some treats of your own and packaging them up nicely in a little kilner jar with a ribbon or in a cute little Christmas box, is such a nice thoughtful gift. A homemade gift like this can be very cost effective and it is ideal for someone who maybe has special dietary requirements or who you know has a soft spot for a certain treat that you make. Cookies, treats, chutneys, there are so many options for homemade edible gifts!

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Dark Chocolate sets:

Dark chocolate has been shown to have some benefits for our health (in moderation of course!). This good health news means it is after getting very popular with people, with many now opting for dark over milk chocolate. Sets like this Green & Blacks one make a great stocking filler, with all different flavours to choose from.

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A homemade hamper:

Filling a hamper is a really nice personal thoughtful gift. Hampers baskets are available all over now in discount stores & fine food stores for quite cheap. These can easily be filled with bought or homemade goods, fruit, cosmetics, gifts, whatever the individual would like. Cover with a little cellophane and ribbon and it really looks the part!

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Voucher for a restaurant:

Veggie, vegan, carnivore, no matter who they are they will be over the moon with a voucher from any of our favourite eateries; Cafe Paradiso, The Happy Pear, Avoca, Cornucopia, Ballymaloe, The Farmgate in Cork, The Pigeon House in Delgany, The Good Things Café in Skibbereen, Budds of Ballydehob, The Quay Coop, Liberty Grill, the list goes on…

Cookbook:

The list of great cookbooks out there is endless! Some of our favourites are The Fit Foodie by Derval O Rourke, Eat Live Go from Donal SKehan, Healthy Gluten Free Eating from Darina Allen & Rosemary Kearney, The Cafe Paradiso Cookbook, The World of the Happy Pear, The Ketogenic Kitchen from Domini Kemp & Patricia Daly, Susan Jane Whyte’s The Virtuous TartLean in 15 by Joe Wicks, The Little Green Spoon by Indie Power, Natural Born Feeder by Roz Purcell, Raw by Bernadette Bohan

 Have fun shopping! And have a very Happy Christmas!!

Staying healthy through the festive season

Well it’s that time of year again, the festive season, which so often ends up being the overindulging season! Full of Christmas cheer, parties, nights out, drinks, treats, endless opportunities to fall into unhealthy habits. We all love Christmas, but not so much its aftermath, feeling lethargic and bloated when January comes, with a noticeable new tightness in the waistband!! Wouldn’t it be nice to have all the fun and enjoyment, treating ourselves while staying healthy and feeling your best!!

So here are our top tips for staying healthy this Christmas:

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Plan ahead:

The best way to succeed at anything is to be organised and plan ahead. The same goes for the festive season. A little bit of forward planning can go a long way in keeping healthy habits going through the holidays. Think ahead of your menus for various days, ones you have planned or ones that may potentially happen, like people popping in for a drink & finger food or maybe a cuppa and a treat. Buy in all the ingredients you might need for different scenarios, it’s great to have food on hand that you are happy to be eating, and can keep you from tucking into something you know you shouldn’t.

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Where possible make snacks and treats & snacks ahead of time and gather some ideas for quick and easy to prepare healthy options to keep yourself away from the traditional box of Roses. Make some dishes ahead of time and even have things frozen ready to defrost. Things like cookie dough are great to keep in the freezer. Or having dried fruit and nuts in the cupboard. Or dark chocolate is so handy to simply melt & have with fruit.

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Hydration:

Drink lots of water is a good rule to stick by over the holidays. With parties going on, nights out, catch ups there always seems to be the opportunity to have a tipple or two. Keep yourself well hydrated by drinking lots of water. If you are having a few drinks, match each drink with a glass of water, or using sparkling water as a mixer is another good trick. And drinking lemon water is going to be great to help the body detox too. Or a little apple cider vinegar in water is great too for your digestion & antioxidant too.

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Routine:

Try to stick to your routine as much as possible, of course enjoy your nights out, but still try to follow on with your usual healthy eating and exercise regime. Again, plan ahead… If you’re heading out for the night and know you will probably be tired the following day, get your exercise in before you head out and allow yourself a day off the next day, or do something less strenuous like a nice walk. And maybe even do some meal prep for the following day, so you’ll have stuff ready at hand when you’re hungry, a great way to help you stick to your routine.

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If you do have a night out or a blip in your healthy eating, don’t beat yourself up about it or let yourself get derailed completely from your routine. The funny thing with hangovers & tiredness is the very thing you feel like eating actually just makes you feel worse. The best thing you can do is try to override your brain. So while your body is craving salty sugary foods the next day, reach for a green juice or fruit salad, you might not feel like it initially, but it will be the best thing for you and after eating something good like that you will start feeling better a lot faster. Lots of water and good clean food is the best thing to cleanse the system and ease your hangover!

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Usually carbs is the order of the day when we are feeling tired or hungover, but the best way to keep hunger at bay is to eat protein at every meal. A good mix of protein and low GI carbs may not be what you are drawn to, but it is going to be the best mix to get you feeling back to yourself as much as possible.

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Enjoy yourself:

Don’t deny yourself, it is the season to be jolly after all! Allow yourself your treats here and there. You could throw together some of your own. Dark chocolate, fruit, nuts, seeds, oats, nut butters are all great options for making some lovely treats that won’t send you too far wrong :) Having a stash of healthy treats at the ready will stop you being tempted by processed sugar laden shop bought alternatives. Even just have a few ideas for treats that can be thrown together easily in a couple of minutes.

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Relax:

With time off over the holidays, and all these extra nights, try to catch up on some much needed rest. Take the chance to get an early night or a lie in where possible! Being tired plays havoc with our appetite and diet and can lead to us reaching for things we might not normal eat.

Also, while out of your normal busy routine, try to take your time when eating and maybe employ some mindful eating. Taking the time to prepare a meal, sitting down relaxing, focus on what you are eating, enjoy the tastes and the flavours and chewing your food well. Your digestion will thank you!

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Eating out:

When eating out there simple things you can do like avoiding the bread basket, and watching portion size, maybe opt for a starter over a main, or simply have one or two courses rather than all three. Most restaurants now have a good range to accommodate people with different eating requirements, and are usually very open to people requesting different things. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the menu, enquire where the food has come from, how it is cooked. And gluten free options are now widely available when eating out, and they are not just for coeliacs, if you feel wheat and gluten leave you feeling very bloated or tired, why not opt for the gluten free option while it is available, you may just feel a lot better at the end of the meal. When eating out choose from fish, meat, veg, salad, fill up on plenty of veg, opt for lighter desserts including fruit.

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Entertaining:

If you are entertaining guests, have fun playing around with creating some original light finger food. Canapes are great for people to be picking away at through the evening. These can easily be made free from sugar & processed foods and can be prepared in no time. Veg & fruit are a great base for these.

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And for kids, rather than the traditional sugar laden selection box, why not have some fun with food. Some festive food art can be great fun, or even making some homemade treats as gifts is another great option, and a good activity to keep them occupied while off school.

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So a very happy and healthy Christmas to you all. Enjoy!!