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Alex Allan Nutrition
By Alex on 07/07/22 | Recipes

Butternut Spicy Stew

This is a great recipe for energy balance as it includes wonderful slow-release energy from the butternut squash and chickpeas. Coupled with the anti-inflammatory spices and zesty lemon, this is a fab Summer dish.

Ingredients - Serves 4 

400g can coconut milk

1 tsp vegetable bouillon (or veg stock cube)

1 tbsp curry powder

1 tbsp turmeric

½ tsp ground cardamom

2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated

400g tin chickpeas

400g can chopped tomatoes

1 butternut squash peeled and cubed (about 800g)

1 medium onion, chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

Pinch salt

2 tbsp lemon juice plus 1 tsp lemon zest

2 large spring onions, thinly sliced

2 tbsp plain live yoghurt

Method:

1. In a large saucepan mix together coconut milk, vegetable bouillon, curry powder, turmeric, cardamom, 1tbsp grated ginger.

2. Add chickpeas (and their liquor), tomatoes, butternut squash, and onion, and mix to combine.

3. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20-30 mins.

4. Make lemon-onion drizzle: in a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and zest, spring onions, remaining grated ginger, and pinch salt.

5. Serve the stew with quinoa or half a baked sweet potato, plain yoghurt, and drizzle with lemon-onion drizzle.

6. Enjoy! 

By Alex on 03/07/22 | Family Health

My top tips for happy mealtimes 

(these aren’t just for children! Most of these tips are valid for you too)

  1. The aim is for mealtimes to be relaxed and happy.
  2. Eat around a table - not in front of the TV (as this can encourage overeating due to focusing on something else rather than what’s going into your mouth).
  3. Avoid using threats, bribery, or force feeding. Don’t feel obliged to finish your plate.
  4. Avoid rewarding your child by giving them attention for not eating. This will only reinforce the behaviour. It is hard not to be concerned but they will eat eventually.
  5. Pair something enjoyable with mealtimes, e.g., reading a story, non-food related conversation, having music on in the background.
  6. Try to have a regular routine for eating and mealtimes so that everyone gets into the habit of balancing their blood sugar well. Try and stick to three meal a day, with no snacks. When works for you for regular breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Make a plan and stick to it.
  7. Encourage everyone to try new foods (make this a normal part of eating). If you have children, from pre-1 year old if possible as it gets harder after this. Modelling: let your children copy you enjoying your food and trying different things. Think about adding new fruits and veg to your trolley with your weekly shop. Have a go of a fish recipe that you’ve not tried before. Push yourself out of your comfort zone!
  8. Find non-food rewards – this is a key! Make a list of what’s relevant to you, and when you feel you deserve a treat think about what you can pick from that list.

Let me know how you get on. Which of these resonates with you? What can you change?

By Alex on 30/06/22 | Lifestyle Tips

Ever wondered how your relationship with food developed? 

(And how to fix what you don’t like)

Food is for nourishment. If you use it for any other purpose, remember the relationship you have with food developed over time and many things will impact it. But when you want to make practical changes, it can be useful to explore your formative years. We learn how to use food from a very early age - and then rarely challenge the associations as adults.

Hilde Bruch, a respected theorist in eating disorders, suggests that the confusion starts during infancy, when the child is fed when it is distressed as well as when it is hungry. So, from very early on, we may start to lose the ability to differentiate between hunger and emotional needs...

Family mealtimes are an important part of developing healthy self-esteem, social skills, and the relationship an individual has with food. Think back to when you were a child. What were your mealtimes like? What were your parents’ attitudes to weight, food, and dieting?


What was the dominant emotion at your dinner table? Which of the following apply to you?

  • My mother worried about her weight / dieted when I was young
  • I wasn’t able to speak my views during mealtime
  • I remember thinking about my weight when I was young
  • In my family, we thought of beauty as depending a lot on weight
  • I did not look forward to mealtimes
  • My parents forced me to eat foods I did not like
  • There was yelling / arguing during dinner
  • I remember feeling nervous during dinner
  • During meals I was told not to waste food

If any of those resonated, these experiences can create an association between food and that emotion. These can then be easily carried through into adult life.


What type of eater are you? (And how to fix it)

  • I am a perfectionist. I need to be in control (of food / weight /diet)
  • I use food as a treat - to be ‘nice’ to myself
  • I like to please others and feel unable to say no to others (not just in relation to food)
  • I eat when I am angry
  • I eat when I am stressed
  • I restrict my food intake to punish myself and I feel guilty if I fail to achieve this
  • I eat when I feel sad
  • I rush my food
  • I am unable to leave food on my plate
  • I eat when I feel hurt /distressed
  • I eat in secret
  • I eat to avoid conflict
  • I don’t have a regular routine for food

In order to survive, all animals learn what to eat, when to eat and how to eat from their parents. It is unlikely our parents have perfect eating habits so there will always be things we can improve upon as adults. Is a habit or belief still useful now? If not, change it! For example, “you must clear your plate”. Why? What will happen if you don’t? Go on, go really wild, that will happen if I leave the odd potato or brussels sprout?

Do you use food to get control?

Children learn that they can get control of adults by using food. Did you learn to get attention from others by not eating or making a fuss? Or maybe you were force fed foods you didn’t like and felt out of control? There are so many things in this world over which we have no control. It is common for people to turn to food to take control over their own bodies instead.

Solution: Deal with the issue directly - rather than by eating. What in your life is making you feel out of control or stressed? Job / family / money? What practical changes can you make to put you back in control?

Can you leave food on your plate?

“Finish your dinner or you won’t get any pudding”. Sound familiar? Or perhaps your grandparents encouraged you to eat lots. This may have been particularly important for previous generations as food was scarcer and they wanted to ensure we ate as well as possible. We are lucky as this is generally not the case now.

Solution: It’s probably healthier to leave the excess on your plate... 

Are you a pleaser?

Are you unable to say ‘no’ to others?

Do you feel taken advantage of? As a child, did you observe that the pretty /clever / entertaining one got all the attention? If you learnt this, you may still believe that you will only be loved if you are clever / attractive / slim enough. Or, maybe by being good, or doing things for others, you prevented their anger being directed at you. So, you learnt that pleasing others was the easiest course of action - even if it meant not getting your own needs met.

Solution: In which situations is it truly the best course of action to please others? On what occasions is it completely unnecessary (i.e. just habit)? Work out when these are and just say no politely. 

Do you restrict food and then feel guilty when you end up eating?

Were you ever sent to bed without any supper? If so, you may have learnt that if you do something bad you get punished by being made to feel hungry. Dieting is traditionally associated with being hungry and ‘going without’: punishing yourself for overeating in the past. Then, when you get so hungry that you break the diet, you feel twice as guilty because you’ve now sneakily gone against the punishment too!

Solution: Balance your blood sugar (this helps from the physiological perspective) as it will help reduce your cravings. Remember, you are not punishing yourself - you are on a mission to improve your health. Question what happened to break the negative cycle: what led to the slip and what will you do differently next time? 

Do you eat when you feel sad or need love?

“Have some chocolate, that will cheer you up”. It’s easy to see how we all learnt this behaviour. The sugar rush may well perk you up momentarily, but it doesn’t resolve the problem!

Solution: Remember, distress is a normal part of life - deal with it directly. Or, if you need love, ask for some attention from a loved one.

Do you use food as a treat?

Most of us have received food as a reward for good behaviour or to signify love. And we are likely to have had treats (or love) withheld for bad behaviour. So, love and sugar can become closely linked - and an easy way to love yourself.

SolutionChoose treats that won’t make you feel guilty afterwards. This way you can reward yourself more effectively and positively.

Do you eat in secret?

Were sweets hidden out of reach from you? This instantly suggests they are naughty or forbidden which makes us want them even more! Or perhaps someone called you “greedy”. So maybe even now you eat in secret so that they won’t say it again. But it was probably said a long time ago in jest and in response to a specific incident eg. eating all your easter eggs in one go. As a child, that’s not a crime!

Solution: Question your beliefs: maybe you eat a little too much sometimes but that doesn’t justify calling yourself names! Try not to eat on your own and serve appropriate portions.

Do you rush your food?

Perhaps older siblings helped themselves to your food if you didn’t eat fast enough. Maybe your parents encouraged you to “hurry up and finish your dinner and you can go and play”. This can result in overeating as we miss the ‘fulness’ signals.

Solution: Slow down. Chew properly. Put your cutlery down between

mouthfuls.

Do you eat when you are angry or frustrated or to avoid conflict?

If you feel others didn’t listen to you or you were unable to speak your mind effectively you may have turned to eating to relieve the tension. The act of swallowing pushes the feelings down, suppressing them. Or, if you want to avoid conflict, it is difficult to argue if you are too busy eating...

Solution: Start learning to be assertive and deal with the situation that is creating the frustration. Avoid the situations. Or find a healthier outlet for the stress, e.g. exercise.

If this has made you think and you feel you may need support, don't hesitate to get in touch with me. Why not book a free call with me here?

By Alex on 07/06/22 | Recipes

Salmon Fishcakes

Both fresh and tinned salmon are great sources of Omega 3 fatty acids which are essential for good brain health. 

This is a super easy recipe and is suitable for all ages. And it’s a great way to use up extra mash!


Serves 4


Ingredients:

200g salmon fillets or 1 x 200g tin wild red salmon

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1 egg, beaten

2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

1 tbsp butter

Method:

1. If using fresh salmon, bake for 20 minutes until cooked.

2. Boil the sweet potatoes until tender, approximately 15 minutes. Drain and mash.

3. Sauté the onion in the olive oil for a few minutes until transparent.

4. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together (except the butter) to form 8 small fishcakes.

5. Place in the fridge for 1 hour before cooking – this will firm them up.

6. Gently fry in butter until crisp on both sides and serve with your choice of vegetables or salad.

7. Enjoy!

By Alex on 23/05/22 | Nutrition Tips

The link between physical health and what you eat is well understood, but did you know that what you eat has a huge impact on your mood and how you feel?

I wonder how we forgot about this connection, because it was common knowledge in times gone by. Way back when (think medieval times), people would eat quince, dates and elderflowers if they were feeling a little blue, and use lettuce and chicory as nature’s tranquilisers. 

Modern science has extensively studied the impact of food on mood, and we now understand why food has such a positive (or negative) effect, and also which foods we should be eating more (or less) of to support mental health. 

Managing anxiety, stress, depression, and other mood disorders is complex, and there’s no one-size-fits all solution. But we know that the right diet and lifestyle plan combined with motivational coaching to help you every step of the way can be an enormous help. 

Good nutrition makes all the difference 

The very edited highlight of the research into what you should eat to balance your energy and improve your mood is to follow a Mediterranean-style diet featuring plenty of whole, natural foods. That also means learning to balance your blood sugar levels. Loss of blood sugar balance has a clear link to stress, anxiety, and depression. 50% of low mood is down to blood sugar imbalances. 

Learning how to become a master of your blood sugar balance is the secret to having more energy, a better mood and controlling your weight – and losing it if you need to. Feeling more confident about the way you look is in itself an excellent way to boost feelings of self-worth. 

In the same way that eating well can positively influence mood, making poor food choices can have the opposite effect. Research by a team at Binghamton, New York, showed that young adults under 30 who ate fast food more than three times a week scored higher when it came to levels of mental distress. The same researchers found that those who ate meat fewer than three times a week had more mental health problems (potentially as the amino acid tryptophan found in meat is the pre-cursor to the feel-good chemical serotonin). 

Key to your mood and brain function 

Few of us get enough omega-3 fats in our diet, and these are key to our mood and brain function. The dry weight of our brain is literally 60% fat - so not surprising that we depend on a daily intake of essential fats. 

EPA, DPA and DHA – certain long-chain omega-3 fats – build and rebuild your brain and are part of the equation for happiness. The higher your blood levels of omega-3 fats, the higher your levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin are likely to be. 

Omega-3 fats help build receptor sites as well as improving their function. There have been ten good quality double-blind controlled trials to date, giving fish oils rich in omega-3s to people with depression. Five showed significant improvement, greater than that reported for anti-depressant drugs. 

Most studies on anti-depressant drugs report something like a 15% reduction in depression ratings. Three studies on omega-3s reported an average reduction of 50% - and without side-effects. 

Sources of omega-3 fats: oily fish (salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, cod, tuna, halibut), walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseed. If you are vegetarian or vegan, consider taking an omega-3 supplement (e.g. DHA from seaweed). Most plant sources of omega-3 do not contain the long-chain fatty acids mentioned above. Although the body can make those from short-chain omega-3s – like the ones found in nuts and seeds – conversion is poor and it is difficult to get enough omega-3 that way, especially if you are not in good health or pregnant, when you need some extra. 

Low mood affects up to 20% of us at any one time 

Low mood affects up to 20% of us at any one time, so everyone is likely to experience some form of it at one time or another, particularly if you are also tackling a gut or hormone issue. 

Many periods of low mood can be almost eradicated by following the simple steps above and by following my signature Mood & Energy programme. Not only because this addresses many of the physical causes of low mood, but also because you are spending your time focusing on a positive action plan and learning new things rather than ruminating about problems. 

To find out more about how a nutrition & lifestyle programme can help, click here to book a free call with me.

By Alex on 10/05/22 | Recipes

Friday Night Fakeaway recipe – Chicken Tandoori
 

It’s the end of the week and you fancy some spicy food. What better than this fabulous chicken tandoori recipe? Even better, the herbs and spices in this dish lend it anti-inflammatory properties. And for vegetarians, tofu would work perfectly! 

Ingredients - Serves 2

2 chicken breasts, skinned, boned, and cut into bite-sized chunks (or 1 pack firm tofu cut into bite-sized chunks)
85g natural yoghurt
Handful of flaked almonds
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp fresh ginger root, grated
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Generous seasoning with salt and black pepper 


Method:

1. Place the chicken pieces (or tofu) in a shallow casserole.
2. Mix together the rest of the ingredients and spread over the chicken (tofu), then cover the dish and place it in the fridge to marinate for at least an hour.
3. Bake the chicken (tofu) in the marinade at 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 for 35-40 minutes until meat is cooked thoroughly. Do not turn.
4. Serve with brown basmati rice and steamed vegetables or a big green salad.
5. Enjoy!

 

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