Healthy options for summer dining

When we think about healthy eating many of us automatically think that means eating lots of salad but although salad items need to be part of a healthy diet, summer dining is so much more than a bowl of lettuce.

During the warmer summer months lots of people enjoy eating lighter meals and do not want to spend hours in the kitchen preparing food. There are lots of healthy meals that can be prepared in less than an hour as long as you have the ingredients to hand.

Chicken is a wonderfully healthy meat to choose and once cooked can be kept in the fridge and sliced up as required. A delicious Caesar salad can be made using crisp romaine lettuce leaves, parmesan cheese with sliced chicken pieces and a garlic dressing. Coupled with crusty ciabatta bread it makes a great light lunch.

Stir fries are a quick and easy way to feed the family and are a good way to get lots of vegetables into the diet. A Mediterranean vegetable stir fry could include peppers, onion, courgettes and aubergines and adding prawns to the stir fry will ensure you meal contains some healthy protein too. Most vegetables can be cooked in a stir fry so be adventurous and try shredded carrot, broccoli and sugar snap peas for a change.

Breakfast – to have or not to have, that is the question.

With our busy lives, breakfast is something that many people skip, opting instead for multiple caffeinated drinks to make them feel full and energised. However lots of research shows that by taking the time to have a healthy breakfast you can set up a healthy eating routine for the eating breakfast you start your metabolism off which is important to consider particularly if you’re trying to lose weight.

So what should you have? Firstly avoid any high sugar breakfast items such as cereal bars or chocolate cereals as these give you a blood sugar spike then a crash making you feel very hungry and lethargic about an hour after. Instead opt for whole grain cereals that are high in fibre such as oats and whole wheat products that allow a more slow-release of energy. If you like toast, choose wholemeal breads or breads that contain dark rye, as these are healthier for you than plain white bread. Avoid any high sugar spreads including jams and marmalades and instead choose something nutritious like avocado or poached or boiled eggs. With the right breakfast you can kick-start your metabolism and keep your blood sugar level nice and stable ready for the day ahead.

Making sure you get the right portions of all the food groups

Having a balanced diet is important as it ensures that your body is fuelled with all the nutrients it needs to function correctly. There are a number of different food groups, and it is wise to try and get some of each into your diet daily. You may need more of one sort of food group than another. If you are vegetarian then you may easily miss out on the recommended protein, which is usually found in meat, so you may need to replace this with other foods that are high in protein. Many meat substitute products have been made with this in mind.

If you are struggling to get all the vitamins and nutrients into your diet through food you may decide to supplement with a tablet or even a drink. This will allow you to boost your intake. Sometimes, for you body to absorb these, you may need to take them with another vitamin or food or possibly avoid taking them with some drinks or foods. If you are trying to increase your levels of good bacteria, then you may opt for a probiotic. You should not take these with a hot drink or even hot food as it can kill off the bacteria rendering them useless.

Is batch cooking a good idea?

Batch cooking is something that has come back over the last couple of years. People are so busy with their jobs and life commitments that they simply do not have as much time anymore for preparing and cooking meals. If you do not have meals prepared then it is easy to end up cooking something quick and often unhealthy. You may also find that you pick a lot whilst the food is cooking because you are hungry and haven’t planned ahead.

Batch cooking allows you to cook multiple batches of food at one time. You can then refrigerate or freeze these to use on another day. You will probably not want exactly the same food every day for a week so it is always a good idea to bulk cook multiple different meals so you can swap around and have something different.

Not all meals can be batched cooked but lasagne’s, curry’s, Chilli and soups are all great examples. You can also prepare other foods in advance to have as snacks, so you may decide to cook some chicken thighs to be able to use throughout the week, If they are already cooked you can either eat them cold or heat them up again.

Foods to cook in the winter

Often our food choices tend to change quite a bit from summer to winter. In the summer you may find that you have more of a Mediterranean diet such as salads, fish, chicken and grains where as in the winter months you are more likely to crave warm, hearty dishes such as casseroles, stews, shepherd’s pie and roast dinners. Something that is warm that will give us that warm, full feeling.

Sometimes it can be harder to get motivated to do dinner in the winter as all you want to do is snuggle up on the sofa but doing your preparation in the day will save a lot of time.

Now is the perfect time to bring out the slow cooker. Slow cookers are a great way to prepare a good home made meal without having to spend hours over the stove. If you haven’t got one, it is definitely the go to gadget you need to invest in this Christmas. You can fill the pot with raw meat, veg and stock and leave it to slowly cook throughout the day. When you get home you can simply cut up some crusty bread and server out your ready made slow cooked stew.

Eating good whole foods balanced with exercise

If you are not happy with the way you look at present then you may be tempted to try a diet. Often the problem with diets is that it removes the fats and replaces it with low fat high sugar alternatives. High sugar foods do not keep you full for very long so after only an hour or two you may be craving food once more.

Rather than going on a diet, it is better to make some lifestyle changes that you can stick to long term. The problem with dieting is that you may be able to lose weight fast but then often you will put it back in as soon as you start eating normally again. Making small but sustainable changes to your day to day food habits is a much better way at going about getting fit and healthy. Try and eat foods in their whole state as much as possible. For example rather than plastering peanut butter and jam on your toast why not opt for a handful of nuts and a small bowl of fruit. Add in some natural yogurt and you have a tasty dish that is not only satisfying but also packed full of foods that are great for your body and your mind.

How to manage a food allergy

If you or your child has a food allergy you need to think very carefully about how to manage it. There are different degrees of food intolerance. For some people certain foods or ingredients in food make them have a bad stomach or possibly be sick, for others they may come out in a rash or even have a life-threatening reaction which can cause them to stop breathing. Lot’s pf people that have an allergic reaching to nuts or eggs find that it can be very serious. Often, they need to carry an epi pen with them wherever they go and make sure that they do not eat anything that contains the food they are allergic too. Some people can even have an allergy to a food that is in the air, so for example, if you have a nut allergy, sometimes even being in the same room as nuts could start you off.

Although this can be very hard to manage at times, especially if you are out for a meal or away on holiday, once you have gotten used t what sorts of foods to what out for, it can become a little easier.

Does eating healthy help you avoid getting ill?

You often hear the phrase an apple a day keeps the doctor away, well is there any true in the matter that eating healthily will mean you are less likely to get ill? Well, this all depends on the type of illness, for example you may be less likely to catch a cold if you eat healthy as certain fruit and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals that help the bodies natural defences. If you have the optimal amount of these vitamins and minerals then your body should work hard to try and avoid you catching anything or becoming ill but with some infections or disease this may not be the case. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well you try and look after yourself, you may still get ill. Eating healthy can also help you recover quickly though and has other health benefits too. It’s not just about eating healthily, its also about exercise. You need to do a certain amount of exercise to ensure that you maintain a healthy weight and look after your heart. If you are unsure of what you should be eating to be healthy or what sort of exercises you should do then you can go on the NHS website where a lot of useful information can be found.

How your gut health can affect a number of other functions

Gut health is something that people are now talking about more and more. There have been many programs that touch on gut health such as “You are what you eat”, and these can give us an insight in to how the food when eat,  drinks we consume and the medicines we take affect out gut. The gut is responsible for many different processes within the body such as immune response, digestion and even hormones. All these things are vital to our health and wellbeing and often if your gut is out of whack, you will notice a huge number of other physical issues start to appear.

There are a few ways in which you can improve your gut health. Firstly, you may want to give your diet a bit of an overhaul. Gluten can be very hard on our guts and lead to something called leaky gut. Cutting back on Gluten or cutting out completely can make many people feel a lot better and fix gut health issues. Probiotics can also be helpful to help restore the balance of good bacterial. Some medicines such as antibiotics kill off all sorts of bacterial regardless of whether it is good or bad. This can cause issues after each course so you may want to limit the amount of times you have them.

Staying fit in your fifties

As we age it becomes vital that we look after our minds and bodies if we are to continue to enjoy life well into retirement. Healthy eating and exercise are the key areas to concentrate on along with regular check ups at the doctors to keep an eye on blood pressure and other health matters, but what are the main messages about health and fitness that we should be listening to?

The most important issue is that we try to eat as healthily as possible for the majority of the time. It is essential to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, lean meat and fish and complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat pasta, rice and bread. It is also crucial especially as we age that we eat healthy fats that can be found in oily fish, nuts and seeds as this helps to keep our joints supple.

There is a debate about whether it is necessary to take vitamin and mineral supplements as a healthy diet should provide the required amounts, but it has been shown that for the majority of people it is a good idea.

Taking regular exercise as we age need not be as extreme as taking up jogging or weight training however Yoga, Pilates, walking and swimming are all good ways to exercise without putting strain on joints and muscles and risking injury.