Winter is well and truly here and Christmas is just around the corner; this time of year often results in poor food choices and ‘comfort’ eating. Whilst it’s not always possible to be virtuous (Christmas parties and get togethers with friends and family are particular problems…) we can make sure we eat well the rest of the time. It’s particularly important to opt for nutritious meals at this time of year to keep your immune system strong and energy levels up – we all need extra energy for Christmas! With that in mind, we’ve complied our nutritionists’ favourite ‘comfort’ meals along with a recipe for you to try them out yourself! We’d love to know your favourite (healthy!) meals for winter. Why not share them with us in the ‘Comments’ section below!
Kyla’s favourite breakfast
Asparagus, mackerel and poached eggs
Asparagus, mackerel and poached eggs is one of my favourites, providing lots of protein to keep me full until a late lunch, a good source of healthy omega-3 fats and antioxidants from asparagus. Did you know that asparagus is also a prebiotic food, meaning that it helps to feed the good bacteria in your gut? I usually steam my veg and then add 1 tsp. butter or coconut oil and ground black pepper to give a more satisfying taste. Wilted spinach with goats cheese melted in is also delicious. Spinach doesn’t have to be boring! You can probably tell already that I am not scared of eating lots of good fats. Fat doesn’t make you fat any more than carbohydrates or protein like once thought, as fat is very satisfying!
If you are going for a fried breakfast, use coconut oil to fry your foods, as this is the most heat stable fat. A slight coconut flavour also gives a nice twist to your breakfast.
Yoghurt with fruit and nuts
This is the best way to start the day! Not only is this a super healthy breakfast full of good fats, protein and slow release carbohydrate, but it’s also extremely easy to prepare (no weighing needed!)
A good dollop of full fat Greek yogurt, a good handful of blueberries, a sprinkle of trail mix (raisins, cranberries, chopped nuts, Gojiberry and pumpkin seeds), a sprinkle of milled chia seeds and finished off with a drizzle of honey!
This breakfast will make sure I get all the nutrients needed to help me stay both full and focused until lunch time, it will support my immune system (no coughs or colds for me!), support healthy gut function and provide a range of antioxidants.
Fage Total Natural Greek is not only high in protein and calcium but also contains live cultures of probiotics to help maintain my healthy gut flora (L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Casei). Importantly, and unlike low fat, or fat free yogurts, the protein and fat combination in this yogurt will help me feel fuller for longer (no midmorning snacking!)
Blueberries naturally rich in vitamin K which will help ensure the calcium content of my breakfast is well utilised (100g will provide me with nearly 25% of my daily recommended intake) These colourful berries are also rich in vitamin C, are a good source of fibre (to help feed my probiotics!), and a number of phenol-like antioxidants including pterostilbene and resveratrol – both noted for their anti-ageing qualities!
Chia seeds are another excellent source of fibre, as well as omega-3 (short-chain ALA), protein and more calcium!
Goji berries are another ‘superfood’ and contain complex starches called Lycium barbarum polysaccharides which have been shown to benefit the immune function
Cranberries are well known as the ladies’ best friend because of their ability to help prevent urinary tract infections by preventing E. coli, (the bacterial ‘culprit’) from colonising the urinary tract walls, but they are also rich in vitamin C (offering more immune boosting benefits)
Nuts, such as Brazil nuts and almonds are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals including magnesium (almonds) and selenium (Brazil nuts) needed for healthy neurotransmitter function therefore helping me stay bright and alert throughout the day
Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc (over 100 enzymes in the body require zinc to function) and the antioxidant vitamin E which helps to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals
The food we eat should be fresh and vibrant and by including many different ‘ingredients’ we can ensure our bodies receive a comprehensive and broad range of nutrients!
Steak and ale stew
Winter seems to have hit with a vengeance, with recent winds chilling to the bone! At times like these, something comforting, warming and nourishing for dinner is essential both as a warming indulgence, and to get you through the cold.
Yesterday ‘Steak and ale stew’ was on the menu. I love this dish because it is packed full of good nutrition, is really easy to make and tastes delicious.
At this time of year our immune systems are on trial and so we need all the help we can get to stay healthy and happy as the cold and dark closes in. Beef is an excellent source of zinc and protein, both of which are vital for healthy immune function as well as certain B vitamins and iron – vital for maintaining energy levels. Root veg such as carrots and celeriac are full of good starchy carbohydrates that fill us up and feed our gut flora, helping to keep our digestive system happy. Carrots are also a good source of vitamin A and C, both important for immune health. Vitamin A also helps nourish our skin, reducing the drying damaging impact the cold can have. Finally leafy greens – which I serve with everything – are a fantastic source of a range of nutrients of which magnesium and vitamin K are two highlights. Magnesium is a great nutrient for helping to balance mood, sleep and stress, all which seem to be under particular strain at this time of year, whereas vitamin K is important for heart and bone health and helping to keep our brains and body weight healthy! Finally, onion and garlic are a staple at this time of year and should be added to everything. Not only are they great for looking after our heart and immune system but they contain lots of phytonutrients that acts as antioxidants and help to kill off bugs, helping us not to get sick.
Turn the oven on to Gas mark 7 or 220oC. Take 1 medium onion and dice to small-ish pieces, add these to a pan and simmer in butter over a medium heat, turn down the heat to make sure they don’t brown. Once the onions have softened and turned a little clear, add 2-4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped, according to your preference. When you can start to smell the garlic, and the onions are nice and soft, pour the contents of the pan into a casserole dish.
Place the pan back on the heat and turn up! Cut your beef into large chunks (you’ll want approx 150-200g per person) and add to the pan, immediately turning down the heat a little. Brown lightly all over – do not char – then add to the casserole dish also. Any type of beef can be used but you want something with loads of flavour – beef shin, braising steak, flat iron steaks, and beef on the bone all work really well and because you are slow cooking, it doesn’t matter how tough a cut you use.
Roughly chop into chunks 1-2 handfuls of mushrooms of your choice per portion – flat mushrooms are great for this – 1-2 medium carrots and half a small celeriac (optional) add these to the casserole dish. Sprinkle the mixture with a good amount of sea salt and some black pepper, crumble half a beef stock cube and half a veg stock cube into the mix and the through in a large sprig of rosemary and a bay leaf or two. Finally, pour in about 100ml of your beer – pick an ale that is not too dark or hoppy, Adnams Southwold bitter or similar is ideal – then top up with boiled water to cover the contents of the dish. Cover with the lid and place in the oven.
After 30 minutes, turn the oven down to gas mark 4 or 160oC and cook for 2-4 hours or until the meat is very tender and easily falls apart. Half way through cooking, check the water level and taste, make additions of seasoning and beer or water if needed and place back in the oven. Serve with a little mash potato and LOTS of steamed greens to catch and mop up all the delicious juice. Enjoy!
Rhona’s favourite nourishing dinner
Thai Green Chicken Curry
“This is a super quick recipe to cook and any leftovers can be kept for lunch the next day. It’s very hot and spicy so perfect for the coming months when it will be getting a little bit colder. I cook this dish regularly and the whole family loves it! Rhona Nicholls
The chicken in this recipe provides a good quality source of protein, including essential amino acids which the body needs for building and repair of tissues. The brown rice provides B vitamins for energy, chromium to help balance blood sugar and fibre to aid digestion. The vegetables also provide fibre and vitamins and minerals.
Onion contains a flavonoid called quercetin, which supports overall heart health. Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which also has heart health properties. Chilli peppers are a rich source of vitamin C and a compound called capsaicin, which has many health benefits. Lemongrass also contains antioxidants and is a tonic for the nervous system. Coriander has many health benefits and is a useful addition to dishes as it stimulates digestion. Coconut oil has many health benefits and is one of the best oils for cooking as it can withstand high temperatures.
1 tbsp coconut oil
4 chicken breasts (organic) cut into strips
1 red onion sliced
1 clove of garlic chopped
One red chilli chopped finely
2-3 mushrooms sliced
Selection of chopped vegetables – baby corn/mange tout/bok choy and small florets of broccoli
Can of coconut milk
1 lemon grass stalk (bashed to release lemon oil)
Handful of coriander
Brown rice (enough for 4)
Put a pan of water with a pinch of sea salt on to boil. In a wok or large frying pan gently fry the onion, mushroom, chilli and garlic in the coconut oil until onion is soft. Add chicken and cook until seared. Add the coconut milk and bashed lemongrass. Simmer for 25 mins.
Meanwhile, add the rice to the pan of boiling water and simmer for 35 mins or until rice is tender. After 25mins add the vegetables to the curry and simmer for a further 10 mins. When cooked, stir in a handful of coriander and serve with brown rice.