Archive for August, 2013

August 26, 2013

Back to School

by lrmetcalfe

It’s that time again!kids

The summer is coming to a close and September is getting; we need to start getting back into the routine. So, I thought I would mention a few holistic helpers to make September a little easier.

Unmotivated sleepy children?

If your children are constantly tired and unfocussed at school, there are two ways you could help…

1. Make sure they have a healthy breakfast.

We all know the importance of breakfast, this meal essentially breaks-the-fast, that we have had whilst sleeping. The brain and body cannot function without this morning hit of energy. Look for slow-releasing carbohydrates, and combine with a portion of protein, if you can get them to eat 1 of their five a day too- this would be an excellent start.

Try one of these:

  • Wholemeal toast, with good-quality peanut butter and a sliced banana/strawberries on top.
  • Low sugar cereal- Weetabix, ready-brek or shreddies, with milk- I like whizzing a banana in with the milk too and pouring this on my cereal- a banana milkshake with cereal!
  • Eggs are a great protein rich start to the day- try cheesey scrambley eggs and wholemeal toast or boiled eggs and soliders.
  • Smoothies- let them get creative, put out a selection of fruit, milk and yoghurt, and get blending.Nakdbars
  • If you’re really in a rush, I love Nakd bars- they are packed with dried fruit and nuts and come in a variety of delicious flavours. One of these with a yoghurt or a piece of fruit is a must have for a busy morning.

2. Make sure their diet is rich in Omega 3.

Omega 3 is all over the news, and is especially important for children. Omega 3 is one of the group of what is known as- essential fatty acids, these are the good fats, the ones we should be eating (!) they have so many health benefits, but we just aren’t consuming enough in our diets.

DHA, has been shown to be the type of omega 3 which is most beneficial for children. Multiple studies have been done into DHA’s importance for a child’s brain development and learning; links have been made between low levels of DHA and behavioural disorders.

These fats are ‘essential’ meaning the body cannot produce enough of them, we need to consume them in our diets- leading us to the main dilemma, the best source of Omega 3 is oily fish- tuna, mackerel, sardines, trout, herring, salmon- not foods most kids love to eat!

Check out my ‘Getting Fishy’ recipe article for some delicious oily-fish recipes, or have a look at fish oil supplements, especially ones high in DHA. Many companies have become well practiced at disguising the ‘fishy’ smell and there are some pleasant fish oil children’s supplements around. My favourites are, ‘Biocare Childrens OmegaBerry’ and ‘Eskimo Kids Fish Oil- Tutti Frutti’.’

Children with itchy heads?

Head lice- eek! My skin is crawling just thinking about it, but September and back to school, often sees the return of these horrible creatures. Tea Tree oil is nature’s answer! To act as a deterrent use tea tree shampoo or rub a little oil behind the ears, around the hair line.

If the critters do invade, use ‘What Nits scalb rub’, which contains tea tree, eucalyptus and neem oil, follow with tea tree shampoo and conditioner, then use a nit comb to scrape out the invaders and their eggs.

Can’t get up when the alarm clock rings?

So, we have dealt with the little ones, what about mum and dad? We all know that horrid feeling when the alarm rings, and you just can’t work up the energy to get out of bed, as the mornings get darker this feeling worsens.

You could try a supplement of 5HTP, it is a naturally occurring amino acid and is a pre-cursor for the production of serotonin- the neurotransmitter which is associated with feelings of happiness and wellbeing and melatonin- essential for the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle.

Low energy levels, can often be improved by supplementing with a high potency muti-vitamin and mineral. Make sure the supplement is high in water soluble B vitamins and vitamin C as these are essential for regulating energy levels and the nervous system. Look for a timed release supplement too, such as ‘Quest Super Once a Day’.

I hope this will help and give you some healthy ideas to get through September.

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August 25, 2013

Getting Fishy

by lrmetcalfe

sTrying to increase your intake of Omega 3 fatty acids?

Check out these delicious easy fish recipes.

 

 

 

Neptune Pizza

For kids top with tuna, prawns and sweetcorn; for adults use tuna, anchovies, prawns and spinach leaves.

Serves 4-6

For the dough

375g plain flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon caster sugar

7g dried active baking yeast

2 tablespoons olive oil

225ml warm water

For the topping

Tomato passata

Cheese

Tuna

Cocktail Prawns

Anchovies

Spinach

Sweetcorn

1. Combine flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Mix in oil and warm water to form dough. Spread out on a large circular baking tray.

2. Spread with a little passata, sprinkle with cheese and add toppings.

3. Bake at 190 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

For another omega 3 hit serve with a rocket salad, using a dressing of lemon juice and flaxseed oil (two parts lemon juice to one part oil).

 

Happy Cheesy Fish Pie

I find traditional cheese pie quite sickly with the white sauce; this cheesy version is moist and delicious. Easy to make with kids, get them to make mini pies in small dishes and decorate with smiley faces, use cherry tomato halves for eyes, a carrot slice for a nose, a pea pod for a mouth- get creative.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1kg potatoes

1 carrot

2 sticks of celery

150g any white fish

150g salmon

150g smoked haddock

125g prawns

150g cheese

Olive oil

1 lemon- zest & juice

Milk

Butter

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees and bring salted water to boil in a pan.

2. Peel potatoes, cut into chunks and add to water.

3. Get an oven dish, (or do steps 3-5 in a bowl and distribute into smaller oven dishes to make mini individual portions). Grate, carrot, celery and cheese into dish (or bowl).

4. Cut fish into chunks and add to oven dish (or bowl).

5. Add lemon zest and juice to fish, drizzle with a little oil and salt and pepper.

6. When potatoes are cooked, mash with a little milk and butter- enough to make a smooth mash.

7. Top fish with mashed potato.

8. If making ‘happy’ cheesy pies, top with smiley faces.

9. Bake in oven for 40 mins.

Serve with salad, steamed green vegetables or baked beans.

 

Tuna Sweetcorn Burgers

Serves 4

Ingredients

85g white bread, torn into pieces

198g can sweetcorn, drained

2 x 185g cans tuna in water, drained

25g grated cheese

3 spring onions, finely chopped

1 egg, beaten

2 tbsp vegetable oil

Wholemeal bread rolls or pitta breads, salsa and salad to serve

1. Whizz the bread in a food processor to crumbs, tip into a bowl, then whizz half the sweetcorn until finely chopped. Add the chopped corn, whole corn, tuna, cheese, spring onions and some salt and pepper into the bowl with the bread and mix well. Add the egg, bit by bit, until the mixture is sticky enough to be shaped into four even-size burgers.

2. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan, then cook the burgers for 5 mins on each side until golden and hot through the middle. Stuff into buns or pittas with salad and a dollop of salsa.

 

Sesame Haddock

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 slices white bread, blitzed into crumbs

1 tbsp sesame seeds

4 fillets skinless haddock or any white fish

2 tbsp plain yogurt

1 tbsp olive oil

1. Heat oven to 220 degrees.

2. Tip crumbs into a bowl with half the sesame seeds.

3. Brush fish fillets with yogurt and coat in the crumb mix. Lay on a baking tray and sprinkle over the remaining seeds.

4. Drizzle with a little olive oil, then bake for 15-20 mins.

5. Serve with oven-baked sweet potato wedges & coleslaw or salad.

August 19, 2013

The Fast Diet

by lrmetcalfe

The Fast Diet or The 5:2 Diet, is the latest fad sweeping the diet world.

A few of my family members and friends, have started to undertake this diet, after speaking to them, I was concerned about the basis for this regime. I thought I would do some research and write an article on my findings.

 

The Fast Diet- The Premise

Fasting has been a part of many cultures for hundreds of years, and it’s health benefits have been studied by many research programmes.

Early findings show that benefits of intermittent fasting (the style of fasting promoted in the 5:2 diet) include reduced risks of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, insulin resistance and immune disorders. However research is in the early stages, many of these studies have been done on animals or on small, human sample groups.

The author of The Fast Diet, Michael Mosley, designed the 5:2 diet, after filming a BBC documentary called ‘Eat, Fast, Live Longer’. Following his research into fasting for this programme, he decided to restrict his calorie intake to 600 calories for two days a week and eat ‘normally’ for 5 days a week. He lost 19lb and his body-fat percentage decreased. His blood chemistry was analysed before and after the diet and many risk markers for disease such as cholesterol and fasting glucose levels improved.

He wrote a book detailing his experiences and advocating this diet, in which two days a week men consume 600 calories and women 500 calories, eating normally for the rest of the week.

 

What I like about the fast diet-

The sections on insulin and balancing blood sugar were of great interest to me. The diet places emphasis on controlling insulin levels, eating low GI/GL  foods on fast days which keep your blood sugar balanced. There is a lot of research to suggest that by controlling blood sugar levels we can lose weight, increase our energy levels and reduce the risk of contracting diseases such as diabetes.

The meal plans for the fast days do look delicious, and I think it is important if you are following this diet, to try and follow these plans as they ensure you are receiving the maximum amount of nutrients for the small amount of calories consumed.

 

My concerns- What about the 5 days you are not fasting?

‘The Fast Diet’ book goes into great lengths to tell you what to eat on your fast days, and gives a lot of healthy choices; my biggest concern is how little is mentioned about what to eat on the five days a week you are not fasting.

When I first heard about this diet, it was from someone who was excited to do the diet, as he could eat all his favourite junk foods five days a week and then only had to diet twice a week. The book says ‘eat what you like 5 days a week’, and provides no further guidance-so what if I like to eat a diet high in saturated fat, processed foods and low in fruit, vegetables and fibre, 5 days a week?

Does eating a small amount of healthy food twice a week, compensate for 5 days of eating unhealthily? The book assumes that we all know how to eat healthily for the 5 days a week, but a nation that struggles with obesity and a UK diet industry worth 2 billion pounds, may suggest otherwise.

 

What dieters say… A woman’s point of view:

Why did the Fast Diet appeal to you?
I can eat normally for 5 days I only have to count calories/ cook special meals twice a week. This is convenient as sometimes on diets I end up cooking three meals for me, husband and 3 year old child.

Did you experience any side effects when completing the fast diet?

On fast days I was hungry and lacked energy but otherwise no.

What do you think the pros and cons of the diet are?

Pros – health benefits are major and only dieting for 2 days
Cons -hard to have a ‘normal’ day on a fast day as you’re quite tired

How long have you done the diet for, do you think it is sustainable, could you do it long-term?
I did it for two weeks but lost and then gained weight, as I was eating too much on non-fast days.  I will go back on the diet when I have lost weight to maintain, as it’s much easier than doing a diet every day. I stopped as I needed to lose weight more quickly as am planning to have a baby but will definatly do it again for the health benefits. I think it is sustainable and I could do it long term.

How much weight have you lost doing this diet?

I lost 4lb and put 2lb back on so lost 2lb over 2 weeks.

Did you experience any health benefits other than weight loss when doing this diet?
No, not that I am aware of.

 

What dieters say… A man’s point of view:

Why did the Fast Diet appeal to you?

I saw the Horizon programme on BBC 2. I have believed for some time that fasting could be beneficial to health, the programme listed the benefits and backed them up with scientific research, this prompted me to start the diet.

Did you experience any side-effects when completing the fast diet?

No

What do you think the pros and cons of the diet are?

Pros- I find the diet works for me

Cons- The con, which is true of all diets- they are difficult to follow

How long have you done the diet for, do you think it is sustainable, could you do it long-term?

Three weeks, I believe the diet is sustainable, if you have the will-power to continue with it.

How much weight have you lost doing this diet?

6lb

Did you experience any health benefits other than weight loss when doing this diet?
No other noticeable health benefits.

 

What the NHS says…

The UK National Health Service posted an article about the diet on its website, citing limited evidence for weight loss in humans, and a lack of good evidence for increasing lifespan, improving cognitive decline, and prolonging life in humans in real life (as opposed to animal and laboratory results). The conclusion was: “compared to other types of weight loss programmes the evidence base of the safety and effectiveness of the 5:2 diet is limited. If you are considering it then you should first talk to your GP to see if it is suitable for you”.

 

My conclusion…

Research continues on fasting, and until there is more solid evidence on the best way to fast as part of a healthy diet, I would think carefully and consult your doctor on whether the 5:2 diet is suitable for you.

At the end of the day, the basis of ‘the Fast Diet’ is good old-fashioned calorie restriction. We all know if we want to lose weight we need to eat less, eat healthier foods and exercise more. I believe one of the main reasons the fast diet is so appealing is because it allows us to eat the foods we love but know are bad for us.

However, if you eat healthily and increase your activity levels, there is no reason why you cannot treat yourself occasionally.

I believe that the minute we place ourselves on a ‘diet’ we are setting ourselves up to fail, a ‘diet’ suggests a short-term change.  We should place more emphasis on eating and cooking healthier foods and living a more active lifestyle for the rest of our lives.

August 13, 2013

The Perfect Picnic

by lrmetcalfe

picnic

The Great British Picnic- a wonderful accompaniment to a summer outing in the UK, but how many times do you find yourself wanting more than the usual soggy sandwich?

There are so many healthy, delicious picnic ideas out there you could try. Here is a collection of my favourites:

 

Panzanella

Ingredients

700g very ripe, tomatoes

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp cider vinegar

½ a loaf slightly stale s bread (300-400g), torn into chunks

About 25 black olives

1 small cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cut into thick half-moons

1 small red onion, halved and finely sliced

1 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed

A handful of basil leaves, torn

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Put the tomatoes in a large bowl and crush them with your hands. Tip them into a sieve and push through. Discard the skin and pips. Add the oil, vinegar and plenty of salt and pepper to the tomato juice to make a dressing.

2. Put the bread in a large bowl and pour over the dressing. Add the olives, cucumber, red onion, capers and basil. Toss everything together well with your hands. Leave for 20 minutes and serve or pack up in lunchboxes for your picnic.

 

Minty Coleslaw

This quick, easy and fresh coleslaw recipe, goes well on crusty rolls with ham or cheese.

Ingredients

½ red cabbage, finely shredded

½ white cabbage, finely shredded

½ onion, skinned and finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and finely shredded

6 tbsp natural yoghurt

3 tbsp mint jelly

Black pepper

1. Mix the yoghurt and mint jelly in a large bowl.

2. Add the vegetables and mix well, if the yoghurt doesn’t coat the vegetables, add more yoghurt and mint jelly.

3. Season with black pepper to taste.

 

Mini pitta pizzas

Great for kids, they can make their own combinations and add their favourite toppings.

Makes 8 mini pizzas

Ingredients

4 Pitta breads, chopped into halves

Tomato puree

50g cheddar cheese

Topping ideas

  • Mozarella Cheese, Parmesan Cheese
  • Tuna, prawns
  • Sweetcorn, Jalapenos, Peppers, Onion, Chilli, Olives, Capers, Cherry Tomatoes, Mushrooms
  • Chorizo, Ham, Chicken, Pepperami, Bacon, Turkey
  • Pineapple
  • Boiled egg

1. Heat oven to 200C and put a baking tray inside to heat up. Spread each pitta with 1 tsp purée, add your favourite toppings and sprinkle with the cheddar cheese.

2. Place the pittas on the tray and bake for 10 mins until the pittas are crisp and the cheese has melted. Leave to cool and pack in lunchboxes for your picnic.

 

Fruity Kebabs

You can get as creative as you want with these fruity kebabs, however I love this combination, it can also be drizzled with honey and grilled on a barbeque for a summer pudding.

Ingredients

Mango, nectarine,pineapple, banana, strawberries.

1. Soak skewers in cold water for an hour.

2. Cut the fruit into chunks, thread the fruits onto the skewers, alternating the different types.

August 5, 2013

Fun in the Sun

by lrmetcalfe

ImageTwo weeks in to the summer holidays- are you scratching your head as to fun things you can do with your children? I thought I would give you a few ‘holistic ideas’ of healthy ways you can have fun, which will make a difference to your health or to the environment.

Home-made ice lollies

Who needs the ice cream van? Make your own healthy summer ice lollies, easy to do and cheap to make, these refreshing lollies are great for hot summer afternoons. Just pick up a cheap lolly mould and save some old lolly sticks and get started. The possibilities are endless, but here are some of my favourites:

Bananarama Lolly- Peel a banana cut in half. Push a lolly stick into the cut end and dip the pointed ends in a little melted chocolate, roll in desiccated coconut, hundreds & thousands or chopped nuts. Leave on a plate until the chocolate has set, then put in the freezer overnight.

Strawberry Yoghurt- In a blender, whizz up some strawberries with some natural or strawberry yoghurt. Pour into lolly moulds and leave to freeze overnight.

Juicy Orange- Pour in your favourite breakfast juice to a lolly mould, my favourite is orange, but this would work with lots of different juices. Freeze overnight.

Garden camping

OK I love camping, I know I may be in the minority here, but it’s great fun for kids and nothing is better than waking up to the sounds of birds chirping. Take the expense and hassle out of the experience my camping in the garden.

You could make a night of it; have a barbeque, toast marshmallows, sing campfire songs and settle down to a night under the stars. The next morning you have the added luxury that camping away from home is sorely lacking- the comfort of your own bath and loo!

Your garden becomes a new environment at night, one many of us may not have discovered before. I found that we had a resident toad in our garden, when we slept outside during the recent heat wave.  (Don’t worry it didn’t hop in to my sleeping bag, we heard a strange noise coming from the pond and I looked it up online the next day!)

From 9th-11th August, the RSPB are holding a fundraising event, raise money for conservation by sleeping outside, in their ‘Big Wild Sleepout’. For more information visit: www.rspb.org.uk/thingstodo/sleepout

‘Spring’ clean

OK, so it may be a little late for ‘spring’ cleaning, but a good clear out is very therapeutic and is a great activity for those rainy summer days.

Get the kids to sort through their old toys by playing ‘trash or treasure’, creating piles of unused and loved items. Any toys that are in good working order can be sold on eBay or at car boots, given to charity, or check out ‘Freecycle’, a swapping website, where you can advertise unwanted items to other like-minded recyclers.

You could also make your own natural cleaning products:

Multi-purpose spray- Fill a spray bottle with water until it’s nearly full. Fill the remainder of the bottle with distilled white vinegar and add a small amount of detergent and lemon juice. Shake well.  Use on countertops, sinks, stoves, floors, and toilets.

Air freshener- Add lemon or tea tree essential oil to some cheap vodka and pour into a spritzer bottle, squirt for a fresh, sweet smelling home.

Get on your bike

I’ve recently rediscovered the joy of cycling, many of us take our children to the park to ride their bikes, but do we ride with them?

Look for a cheap bike, if you don’t have one already, often you can pick one up second hand, or borrow a neighbours. Pack a picnic and set off on your bike for the day.

Cycling is a great form of exercise, its low-impact, so it’s easier on your joints, and gives you the chance to get out into the great outdoors.

Check out the national trust website for organised family bike rides, through picturesque settings all over the UK. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/activities/cycling

 

Create a wildlife haven in your garden

Make a wood pile- A wood pile is a great way to attract bugs and amphibians to your garden. Leave a pile of logs, garden cuttings and dead branches in one corner, preferably in a shady area. Fungi may start to grow on your rotting wood this is great for wildlife; it makes good food for slugs and snails which in turn attracts hedgehogs and garden birds.

Feed the birds- You can do this all year round, set up a bird table or bird feeders near to trees and hedges. You don’t have to spend lots of money on bird food. Birds will enjoy many of our kitchen leftovers, including: plain cakes, potatoes, stale bread, rice, soft fruits, apple cores and grated cheese.

You could even make your own bird feeder by pouring melted lard onto a mixture of seeds, nuts, dried fruit, oats, cheese and cake. Stir well in a bowl and allow it to set in a container, an empty coconut shell for instance. Place on your bird table when set.

Leaving an area of your lawn uncut, attracts insects, which provide food for birds.

I hope I have given you some new fun ideas for those long summer days!