Quinoa with kale and purple sprouting broccoli.

March is the start of the purple sprouting broccoli season.

Almost all cruciferous foods are known for their important health benefits, and purple sprouting broccoli contains the phytochemical sulforaphane, thought to help prevent cancer and which may provide resistance against many diseases like osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes.

This colourful vegetable is also packed with vitamin C and is a good source of carotenoids, iron, folic acid, calcium, and fibre. A true superfood!

This recipe is adapted from one of Jamie Oliver’s winter salads.

Ingredients:

100g quinoa

250g purple sprouting broccoli

200g kale

30g blanched hazelnuts

1 orange

1 tbsp tahini

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

Extra virgin olive oil

Cook the quinoa according to the packet instructions, then drain.

Trim the broccoli and cook on a large frying pan over a medium heat for 10 minutes.

To make the dressing, squeeze the juice of the orange into a small bowl. Mix in the tahini, red wine vinegar, 2 tbsp of oil and season to taste. Set aside.

Remove any hard stalks from the kale and place the leaves in a large bowl. With your hands, massage in a pinch of salt for 1 minute. Once the broccoli has charred, add to the kale and tip over half the dressing. Add the quinoa and toss together.

Put the hazelnuts on a baking tray and toast in the oven until golden, then roughly chop.

Add a little more dressing to the salad, toss again, then arrange on a large serving platter. Add the chopped toasted hazelnuts and serve straight away. Yummy!

Kale Chips!

You might have tried the kale chips in health food shops.  Well, if you fancy trying to make your own version, this recipe is for you.

 

You will need:

75g cashew nuts (ideally soaked for 2 hours)

1 shallot, chopped

2tbsp nutritional yeast flakes

½ tsp garlic salt

4 soft large dates, chopped

2tbsp lemon juice

2tbsp water

2tbsp apple cider vinegar

250g chopped kale

 

Blend all the ingredients except the kale until thick. Add a little more water if needed.

Remove the stems form the leaves. Place the leaves in a bowl and pour over the sauce. Massage thoroughly with your hands.

Preheat the oven to 150C. Spread the kale out in a single layer on a lined baking tray and bake for 15 minutes then rotate the tray and continue cooking for a further 10 minutes. You may need several baking sheets to avoid the kale overlapping.

Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet. You can eat it right away or store it in an airtight container (it will keep for about 3-4 days).

Enjoy!

5 great ways to beat colds and flu

When the temperature drops, the chance of you coming down with a cold or the flu increases significantly. It’s widely accepted you’ll get sick more often in the winter. That’s because you’re likely to be inside more and the common cold thrives better in dry air than where there’s humidity. And, when you spend more time indoors, you’re exposed to more germs.

The flu virus is also transmitted much faster when it’s cold out because the lipid (fatty) coating of the virus becomes more resilient the colder it gets.

Your immune system is the most powerful weapon you have against disease. Strong immunity means that the body is better able to fight off viruses and germs.

Fewer colds and sick days this winter would be good, right? There are many diets and lifestyle tweaks you can make to reduce your risk of catching a cold and flu this season (and ensuring it’s shorter and less serious if you do get the lurgy).

Here are my top five tips to keep you fighting fit this month – and beyond.

 

  1. EAT REAL FOOD

Your body needs real, unprocessed food to stay healthy and not the processed foods we kid ourselves are OK for us to eat.

Focus on eating natural, unprocessed food as often as possible. Follow the 80/20 rule (for the avoidance of doubt, this means eating healthily 80% of the time!).

 

Base your diet on whole foods like good quality proteins (eggs, fish, lean meats, nuts and seeds), legumes, whole grains as well as plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit.  Avoid pre-packed, processed foods which are nutrients poor as well as being full of refined sugars, additives and all sorts of artificial ingredients.

 

  1. SPICE THINGS UP!

Adding flavour to food is a smart way to include delicious immune boosters on your plate.

Garlic, for instance, is a potent superfood. It is antimicrobial, thanks to the active ingredient allicin, which helps fight viruses, and has been used for thousands of years to boost the immune system and prevent sickness.

Most culinary herbs contain anti-inflammatory properties due to their phytonutrients, but oregano, parsley and thyme are particularly rich so make sure they appear on your dishes regularly.

Remember to add turmeric, cayenne, and ginger, too, as these are well-documented immune boosters.

 

  1. ENJOY ‘HAPPY TUMMY’ FOODS

Did you know that up to 80% of our immunity to germs and disease is in the gut? The mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) in the gut is part of the first line of immune defence, so getting the right balance between beneficial, or ‘good’ gut bacteria, and the ‘bad’, or potentially pathogenic bacteria, is key.

The gut environment takes a beating year after year, owing to poor diets, too much sugar, stress, antibiotics and other factors. Even if you have no obvious tummy troubles, digestive health is vital, so it’s worth the extra effort to take care of it.

Add probiotic and prebiotic foods to your diet, as these re-populate the gut with good bacteria and feed them well enough to crowd out bad bacteria.

Here are some gut-friendly choices to get you started:

  • Organic, probiotic, natural yoghurt (such as Yeo Valley or Rachel’s)

Always buy full-fat, as the 0% or no-fat options have increased levels of milk sugars – and fat isn’t the enemy, either in life or in weight loss!

  • Miso soup or miso bouillon paste (add these to soups and stews)
  • Oats (soak first, as you would to make overnight oats, to release the goodness)
  • Onions, garlic and Jerusalem artichokes
  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Cooked, then cooled potatoes

 

  1. VITAMIN C & ZINC

Although it appears that taking vitamin C won’t prevent you from catching a cold, loading up on foods rich in this powerful antioxidant, might still help your body to fight infections and shorten symptoms if you do fall ill.

Broccoli and red peppers contain more C than oranges (contrary to popular belief) and other good sources are: kale, cauliflower, parsley, spinach, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, blackcurrants, kiwi fruit, pineapple, mango, papaya and citrus fruits.

Zinc is also essential to our immune system as it supports the functioning of our infections-fighting white blood cells. Top up your zinc levels by eating more palm-sized pieces of lean meat (especially lamb, beef, venison and turkey), pumpkin seeds, ginger root, green veggies, oats, nuts, sesame seeds, yoghurt and scallops.

 

  1. KEEP HYDRATED

When it comes to hydration, plain water is great. Water flushes germs from your system, helps your blood to carry plenty of oxygen to your body’s cells and allows those cells to absorb important nutrients.

Invest in a filter jug or bottle to avoid quaffing high levels of chlorine and fluorine along with your tap water.

Green tea and chamomile tea are also immune system supporters, as they contain antioxidants that help battle free radicals.

 

  1. SAY NO TO SUGAR

Even if you don’t consider yourself a sugar addict, it’s worth looking at how much you do consume – and trying to swap sugary treats for something more wholesome.

Sugar fans the flames of inflammation and affects the ability of white blood cells to fend off viruses and bacteria. In fact, the immune system stays depressed for hours after consuming sugar, according to recent studies.

Addicted to chocolate? Enjoy raw cocoa hot chocolate on chilly evenings, adding your favourite milk or milk substitutes (with a little xylitol or stevia to sweeten, if you like). A few squares of pure, dark chocolate will also satisfy – Green & Blacks, or any good chocolate with a higher cocoa content (at least 75%), is ideal.

 

One last thing, an age-old way to boost immunity is to follow childhood rules – wash hands, go to bed early and take some exercise.

All these simple measures may seem boring (and more difficult to achieve than popping a pill), but science proves that they work. So, why don’t you give them a go? Your immune system will thank you for it.

 

 Are you the kind of person who is ill more often than other people?  Do you feel your immune system could use some support?  I invite you to book in for a free introductory session with me by calling 07772491975 to find out how nutritional therapy can help you.

Celeriac ribbons tossed with chard, garlic and pumpkin seeds

I love celeriac and this one is one of my favourite recipes, courtesy of BBC Good Food. The original recipe has butter too, but I think it works just as well with only olive oil.

It’s easy and quick to make!

Ingredients: (serves two)

1 small celeriac, peeled

1 lemon

40g pumpkin seeds

2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil

4 thyme sprigs (leaves only)

2 chopped cloves of garlic

½ tsp dried chilli flakes

1 bunch chard, leaves shredded and stalks sliced.

20g grated pecorino cheese

 

Using a vegetable peeler, cut some long and wide strips of celeriac, into a bowl of water and lemon juice.

Dry-fry or roast the pumpkin seeds in the oven until they’ve puffed. Set aside.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the celeriac for 1 minute, drain and reserve the water. In a non-stick pan, heat the oil and add the thyme, garlic, and chilli.

When the garlic starts to become golden, add the chard stalks, and stir for another couple of minutes. Add the pumpkin seeds, chard leaves, season and squeeze a little lemon juice. Turn up the heat and add the cheese. Add the celeriac with a slosh of cooking water, shaking the pan until the sauce looks glossy. Divide between plates, and Bon Appetit!

5 ways to make your New Year resolutions stick!

I have written about new year’s resolutions before. I have suggested that you should not make any (the old blog post is still there under ‘holidays’ if you fancy an extra read!) and I still actually mean it.

What I have observed in clinic is that most people fail to stick to these resolutions because they set unrealistic goals for themselves.  This might sound like you too -I know I have been there in the past- you set yourself a huge goal, you don’t have a clear plan on how to go about achieving this, you expect results to come quickly and end up terribly deflated when your willpower -not surprisingly- takes a nose dive and procrastination sets in.

I am not against resolutions because they can be a healthy way to reboot your life, but you need to keep them real. And better still, let’s call them ‘goals’ because a goal is something that you set to achieve, not something that sits there gathering dust.

The secret is to set yourself long-term, reachable goals.

Here is how:

  • Baby steps. Taking one small step forward is certainly better than not moving at all. So, if the thought of having a dry January put you off entirely, then set yourself the goal to go alcohol-free just 3 days a week. Or maybe you are  stuck in a rut when it comes to cooking and you don’t think you have time to learn new recipes.  Get yourself a cookery book and aim to try a new recipe every month. You will soon discover that smaller tasks are more achievable.
  • Less details, more action. It’s really no use in mentally committing to a 10-mile run three times a week if you are just going to think about it, rather than do it. Stop procrastinating and start doing. Get up, put your trainers on and just go.
  • Record it. Write your goals down. Seeing your written goals in black and white increases the chances of sticking to them. I have just bought myself a lovely new diary (I am a pen and paper girl!) and I aim to look at my goals every day. But it doesn’t have to be fancy, you can stick bits of paper on the fridge or in the car. The important thing is to have them ‘in your face’, where you can read them daily.
  • Pleasure, not pain. Focus on the positive side of things. For example, diets are a common New Year goal- but why turn your meal times into a prison sentence? Health boosting plans made of real foods are fun, affordable and delicious. Many people think that healthy eating is boring, and they associate it with deprivation. Turn those thoughts around, focus on all the yummy foods you can eat and think that each healthy bite you are choosing is a gift to yourself.
  • Tell a friend. Voicing the possibility for change makes it more likely to happen. If you can involve a friend into keeping you accountable, so much the better. Accountability is part of the role of a health coach, and my clients often say that it is possibly the most important one. If you already work with me, you know it is vital that I keep you in action, motivated and moving towards whatever it is you want to achieve. When you know you are not alone, and you have a team behind you winning becomes much easier.

If you have decided to make 2018 the year you ‘ll fix those niggling health issues or make a commitment to losing weight, then get in touch. Call me on 07772491975 or email info@stellanutrition.com and book a free discovery call to find out if we are a good fit and if so, the many ways I can help you to achieve your goals.

 

May I wish you a fantastic New Year, full of health, energy and joy!

5 top tips on how to avoid stress this Christmas and enjoy the holidays!

It’s meant to be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ but, when Christmas arrives, the experience can be overwhelming. Trying to get everything ready in time can be very stressful, especially for us women – a third of whom feel more stressed in December than any other month, according to research.

Money worries, family tensions, pressure to socialise, and over-excited children on a sugar high is hardly a recipe for success. And, if you struggle to stay at your happy weight or often turn to food as a way of coping or rewarding yourself, being surrounded by treats and snacks over the holidays might not be your idea of fun.

In the past, I used to get really stressed out at this time of year, because as a family we were faced with the dilemma of where to spend the holidays. Do we go to my mum’s in Venice or do we go to my husband’s parents in Nice? This was always creating some sort of issue with our respective relatives until we got fed up and, finally, came to the decision of spending Christmas here in London, ‘just’ the three of us. It suits us fine -it has been one of the best decisions of my life to be honest- and I find the whole holidays period much more relaxed now!

Managing stress levels is important for your health in the long term because stress is implicated in many different chronic diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems and asthma.

If you’re thinking you don’t fall into the ‘I’m stressed enough to be making myself ill’ category, don’t be fooled. The drip-drip-drip of everyday stress can be as damaging as major life incident-related stress (such as death and divorce), so don’t wait to act. It’s also worth considering that stress makes it very hard to lose weight, and you’re much more likely to store excess weight around the middle.

So, what can you do to keep stress at bay this Christmas if, unlike me, you can’t avoid your in-laws? 😉

Here are my top 5 tips:

  1. The 10-minute mind trick: Set aside 10 minutes a day for meditation. If you have never tried it before, please give it a go. I was sceptical too at first, but then I tried guided meditation and it really works.  I love the free Apps Headspace and Insight Timer as they offer lots of different options for guided mediation. You don’t need to worry about anything, simply find a quiet place for just 10 -or even 5- minutes a day and tune in. Your mind will thank you for it.
  2. Eat regularly: Erratic eating times and skipping meals can lead to a dip in blood sugar levels, which leads to the release of the stress hormone cortisol. It’s difficult when routines go out the window, but try to stick to three meals (with one or two snacks if you are truly hungry). Base all your meals and snacks on good quality protein (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, beans and seeds), fruit, vegetables and small amounts of complex carbs (brown rice, quinoa or buckwheat pasta).
  3. Cut back on alcohol and caffeine: I know this is hard, especially at Christmas when socialising revolves around drinking, but try ditching (or significantly reducing) your alcohol and caffeine intake. Caffeine causes a release of stress hormones from the adrenal glands – the last thing you want if you are already stressed! At first, alcohol might help to relax you when you’re stressed out (by promoting the release of GABA, the calming neurotransmitter), but it is quickly metabolised to sugar that can lead to a restless sleep, which leads me onto my next tip.
  4. Prioritise sleep: Get into a sleep routine that includes relaxing practices such as taking a warm bath with Epsom salts, light reading or stretching. Introduce a digital detox at least an hour before bed (that means no phones, no TV, no laptops or tablets), so as not to disrupt melatonin production (the sleepy hormone).
  5. Eat magnesium-rich meals: Magnesium is involved in hundreds of chemical reactions in the body including nervous system regulation and muscles movements. In fact, magnesium has been shown to calm the body, the muscles and to help improve mood.  So, eating foods rich in this mineral, such as leafy greens, avocados, sesame and pumpkin seeds, almonds, black beans, and spinach make a lot of sense if you want to stay chilled!

Most of all HAVE FUN! If things don’t go to plan, try not to worry too much, instead have a laugh and make them into fun memories for the years to come: “Remember when I set fire to the sprouts and you couldn’t stop laughing about it!”

Brussels Sprouts Pad Thai

I am sure you’ve probably got plenty of recipes up your sleeves already for perking up the humble sprout for lunch on Christmas Day.

This recipe is perfect for using up leftovers on Boxing Day; but please do try and make it with fresh sprouts at other times!

 

Serves 4

You will need:

250g flat rice noodles

1tbsp soy sauce

Juice of 2 limes

2tbsp coconut oil

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 spring onions, finely diced

1 red chilli, sliced

200g cooked Brussels sprouts, sliced

100g beansprouts

30g peanuts, chopped (to serve)

Lime wedges (to serve, optional)

 

Method:

  • Put the noodles in a large heatproof bowl, cover in boiling water and leave for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water, then set aside.
  • Mix together the soy sauce, and lime juice.
  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok. Sautee’ the garlic, spring onions, chilli and the sprouts for around 2 minutes, then add the noodles and beansprouts and cook for another minute.
  • Pour over the sauce and toss well, working quickly to coat all the vegetables and noodles. Once everything is heated through, season and divide between four bowls.
  • Scatter with the peanuts and serve with the lime wedges to squeeze over.

 

A quick and easy way to make the best of your leftovers Christmas sprouts!

My top 7 holiday essentials.

 

Many of you have asked me what I pack when I go on holidays. Well, I am going to be packing soon because bikini time is next week for me, so it’s a good time to share my top 7 essential holiday items with you.

 

1) Healthy snacks.
Airport food has improved dramatically in recent years, so if you have time to spare you can still grab some decent snacks before you fly. However, you might end up stuck in traffic on your way to the airport and not have the luxury to shop at the terminal and then you are in trouble.
Do you really want to eat airplane food? No, trust me you don’t! In my previous life, when I was very young –ah dear a long time ago!- I used to be cabin crew and I learnt pretty quickly that if I wanted to sustain my energy during the flight and arrive at my destination feeling good, I had to simply avoid eating the food on board. I could go on and on about the reasons why you shouldn’t eat what they serve you on board, but I don’t want to bore you. Take my word for it and pack something edible instead.
Good and easy options are: oat cakes, gluten free crackers, nuts/seeds, olives, unrefined sugar-free bars and fruit. If you have time before you leave home, boil some eggs and take those too. By the way, these rules apply even better if you travel by car or train because you have fewer restrictions on what you can carry. So plan ahead and you won’t be bloated the first day on the beach!

2) Probiotics (live bacteria).
This is non negotiable, even if you forget all the rest you must take this!
Around 30% of travellers report that they experience diarrhoea while on holiday. When we eat different foods in unfamiliar environments it can be common to experience stomach upsets. This is thought to be causes by upsetting the balance of one’s natural gut flora which is the bacteria living in our digestive tract. I start taking a multi-strain probiotic supplement a week before travelling, during the holiday and a week afterwards to offer a degree of protection. When I am at home I use the Biocare range, but when travelling I switch to Optibac or Bio-Kult as they are still good quality products and don’t need to be refrigerated.

3) Multi-vitamin.
A multi-vitamin is like an insurance policy as you need a huge range of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. I think that while on holidays you should still try to maintain your healthy habits and taking your multi be one of them.

4) Coconut oil.
No, I am not planning on doing any cooking at all while I am away.
I always keep a jar of coconut oil in the bathroom at home and now it’s coming with me. I use coconut oil to clean my face and moisturise my daughter’s and my own skin. I also use some on my hair to prevent the ends form drying out and tame the frizz.

5) Non-toxic Sun Lotion.
Sun protection is an obvious one, but have you ever thought about the amount of chemicals your skin will absorb while you keep applying your average sun lotion?
There are many different natural brands out there, but my top favourites are Jason and Green People. In the picture there is my daughter’s one as she was playing with the bottles I bought last week and now I can’t find mine anymore!
By the way, please avoid overexposing your skin to the sun and don’t think you are invincible just because you applied some lotion, natural or not.

6) A pashmina.
A pashmina, or big scarf, can serve a multitude of purposes. You can use it as a light scarf, a plane blanket, a rolled-up pillow, or umbrella. It’s useful to cover your shoulders on those breezy evenings on your villa’s balcony or to brighten up an outfit. If you have kids you probably need two as one will be used as a sling, breastfeeding cover, emergency matt or towel!
It’s a great fashion accessory that no self respected ex global girl can fail to pack, ever!

7) A good read.
I might be slightly obsessed but even when I take a break I read about nutrition. I just love to read about different approaches in the field and I also like to read books I can recommend to my clients. Choose whatever you prefer but I think a good book is definitely a must!

Stay healthy, take it easy and enjoy your holiday!

 

Five easy ways to fire up your metabolism.

 

Here in London the temperatures are starting to rise and summer is just around the corner. If you have planned a beach holiday, it means that ‘bikini time’ is quickly approaching.

It is true that ‘summer bodies are made in winter’ but we still have some time to get ready for the beach.  I say ‘we’ because I will be going to the beach too in July, and despite my diet being pretty good –at least 80% of the time! – I haven’t been hitting the gym as much as I would have liked recently. So, I am not really sure my body is ready for that bikini right now which means it’s time to take some action!

If the thought of baring it all in a bikini, is also making your blood pressure go up, you might want to read on. I am going to tell you about five simple ways to boost your metabolism and why this is important.

Your metabolism is the sum of all the physical and chemical processes by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. The higher your metabolism is, the more calories you burn and the easier it is lose weight.

Your ‘metabolic rate’ which is how fast your metabolism works (and is measured in calories) accounts for around 70 percent of all the calories you burn.  70 percent!  This is why it’s important to make sure you metabolism is working well.

Metabolism is affected by a range of things like age, gender, diet, physical activity and body composition; however there are a few things you can do to enhance it.

 

  1. Drink green tea.

Green tea has always been appreciated for its high levels of antioxidants but there is evidence that its active ingredient, catechin, may help in boosting metabolism too. As green tea still contains caffeine, avoid drinking it too late in the day if you have trouble falling asleep or you know you are sensitive to caffeine.

 

  1. Eat protein.

It takes longer to burn protein than carbohydrates and fats, so your body expends more energy to absorb the nutrients coming from protein. Have some good quality protein (eggs, lean meat, fish, nuts and seeds) at every meal and snack. This will also help in keeping you fuller for longer so you don’t end up overeating.

 

  1. Add spices to your meals.

If you like a spicy dish then there is good news for you. When you eat spice your body temperature goes up which might increase the amount of energy you expend. The research looking at this refers specifically to capsaicin, the active compound that gives red chilli pepper its powerful kick. And it appears that, although eating chillies gives you just a temporary boost in metabolic rate, it might also increase feeling of satiety which is another good reason to spice foods up!

 

  1. Do some HIIT.

HIIT workouts normally include short bursts of high intensity exercise, alternating with short relief breaks. There is evidence that this form of exercise protects against heart disease, supports healthy blood pressure and also improves insulin sensitivity which impacts metabolism.  So, it’s official there is no need to spend hours at the gym with these shorter, but still effective, powerful sessions. I like the sound of that!

 

  1. Get a good night sleep.

Unfortunately we are a sleep deprived society who sleeps, on average, 2 hours less than a century ago. Research shows that people who are sleep deprived are more likely to overeat or choose unhealthy foods because their appetite/hunger hormones are altered. We are all different, so we all require different amounts of sleep for optimal function; however most people need around 8 hours of good quality sleep at night for optimal health.

 

We all know that there are no special foods or magic tricks that are going to make us lose weight quickly, safely and for good. However, if you just need to tone up or have only a couple of pounds to lose, following these simple tips might just do the trick and you will arrive at the beach looking great and feeling fantastic!

 

If you would like to lose weight in a safe way and maintain your weight loss for good without any starvation or fad diet, please get in touch. Call 07772491975 for a discovery call to find out how I can help you feel good about your body again!

 

Beat the holiday bloat: 5 top tips to keep your belly flat during the festive season.

Christmas is almost here! You have decorated the tree, you have done all your shopping already (well done you! I will be doing mine at the very last minute as usual!) and you might have already been tempted by the various festive foods and sweets out there. The supermarket aisles have been packed with loads of decadent foods for weeks now, and yes, I hear you say that it’s all tasty and it’s Christmas and all the rest, but the truth is that these foods can truly irritate your digestive system as well as sabotaging your healthy eating habits.

As a result of overindulging, many people end up struggling with bloating, trapped wind, acid reflux, abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhoea. If you suffer from IBS you might be noticing that your symptoms flare up during the holidays which can make you feel more stressed and anxious. This is a time when stress is already a big factor as families get together, kids are off school and you might be juggling many things to make sure it all runs smoothly on Christmas day.

So, what can you do to make sure that at least your tummy won’t play up? No worries, I won’t ask you to stay at home and avoid all the parties and the fun. However, I don’t think Christmas should be an excuse to eat loads of unhealthy food and then feel unwell because of it.

Here you are my 5 top tips to beat the Christmas bloat:

Watch those sprouts.

I am officially giving you a great excuse to avoid eating Brussels sprouts this Christmas. For those of you who like them, did you know that you can eat them even before and after the holidays? And for those of you who don’t (I am with you) why bother? Do you end up eating them just because it’s a tradition? Sorry but it makes me laugh when I see people loading their trolleys with them just at Christmas.

Back to the bloating, those little devils together with other cruciferous vegetables (like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, which I love by the way!), beans, lentils and anything too rich in onions and garlic can give you bloating. They contain FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-di-mono-saccharides and polyols) which are carbohydrates that escape digestion and get fermented by gut bacteria in the colon, causing gas. If you are used to eating them already, then you won’t not be affected, but if you aren’t, then please go easy with them or you will end up with a belly like Santa.

  Say hello to probiotics.

Overeating can lead to an imbalance of gut flora and encourage tummy upsets. Support your gut with foods which contain live bacteria like plain unsweetened yogurt or kefir. To boost the levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut, you can also take a multi-strain probiotic supplement daily during this time of year. In this way, you will be doing your immune system a favour too as well as keeping any IBS symptoms in check.

Slow down.

Eating too quickly can cause you to swallow a lot of air, worsening the bloated feeling you might get after meals. When you eat rapidly, you also don’t savour your food properly and you end up eating more than you should which is never advisable.  So, always eat sitting down and take time to chew your food properly. Remember, your stomach doesn’t have teeth!

Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate.

Unfortunately I am not talking about drinking wine, spirits or any fizzy drinks which you are inevitably going to be offered at parties. I am also not going to play the bad cop and recommend you stay away from alcohol completely.  Be mindful with your drinks and alternate every alcoholic drink with a glass of water.

When you are not partying, drink plenty of filtered water and herbal teas to keep warm and hydrated. The best options to calm and support the digestion are: fennel, ginger, peppermint, liquorice and cardamom. You can also chew on some fennel seeds after a meal. This is a delicious traditional Indian method which works well at promoting digestion.

 Sweat it out

If you end up overindulging with food and drink, then try to stick to your exercise routine as much as possible. If you are not able to get yourself down the gym, go for a brisk walk or a jog instead. Light exercise will still carry oxygen to your digestive tract and move everything through you faster. Exercise is also a great stress buster which is a bonus.

And finally, do enjoy the festive spirit. Focus on slowing down instead of worrying too much about what you should or should not eat. Provided you go back to your healthy eating and exercise routine when the holidays are over, you really have nothing to fear.

May I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a New Year full of health and well-being!