Sprouts are for winter, not just for Christmas!

Winter is a time for hearty grub that warms and comforts us (as I await my slow cooked beef stew with carrots, onions and parsnips) but it’s also a time we often eat less fruit and veg. The lonesome sprout is banished after Christmas and we seem to forget and bypass what’s on offer. Partly because we fill up on starchy, fatty foods first as our primitive, hoarding instincts kick in and we forget what’s seasonal and actually the best stuff to go for.

We are told to aim for 5-a day yet we often ¬†choose fruit over veg. I always recommend to go for 3 veg and 2 fruit each day to help keep the sugar levels within limits. Oh and starchy veg like potatoes don’t count ūüėČ

Making every time we eat a challenge and an opportunity for creativity, we can look to incorporate more veg into the mix, even if it is not a full serving.


What are the benefits of this?

  1. Going for a ‘veggie first’ approach means we are less likely to load the plate with more calorific and energy dense foods.
  2. The nutrient value of your¬†meal goes up! No doubt you’ll get an extra boost of protective antioxidants, energy boosting B vitamins and fibre to name a few. If you’re feeling tired or a bit run down, these can help refil the necessary reserves to build yourself back up again.
  3. Seasonal veg is more likely to be fresh and richer in vitamins and minerals! You might be fortunate to shop at a local farmers market or have a local farm down the road that sells their own produce fresh from the ground but most of us treck to the giant supermarkets for our weekly shop. We now demand seasonal foods all year round, so we can have strawberries and asparagus 365 days of the year. Have you ever noticed how far your food has traveled? If your green beans and blueberries are coming¬†over from China or New Zealand, the likelihood is they ain’t as nutritious as we think they are, never mind the carbon food print that has been stamped by the global efforts to get them from field to fork.

Vegetables at a market stall

This is a list of foods that grow NATURALLY in the UK in the winter months and are at their best. Whether you aim to be more adventurous with your meals or need covert operation veggie to get the kids to eat anything other than baked beans, have a go at introducing a new / different one each week.

  • Artichokes
  • Avocados
  • Beetroot
  • Broccoli (the young tender stem is amazing right now!)
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celeriac
  • Celery
  • Chicory
  • Kale
  • Leek
  • Swede
  • Turnip

Why not check out this seasonable food table from BBC Good food to keep up to speed with the best pickings ūüôā


Three Top Tips to Boost your Vitamin D

How dark and dreary has it been lately? You might have been lucky enough to have seen snippets of blue sky recently but for many of us Northern hemisphere hermits, the winter months bring dull days, rain, more rain and often very little quality sunshine.

In fact our  exposure to sunshine is one of the biggest factors that determines the levels of Vitamin D in our body. Known as the sunshine vitamin, we rely on UVB rays from the sun to make Vitamin D in our skin.

In the spring and summer months we need only spend 15 minutes in the sun (between 11 and 3) 2-3 times a week to make enough vitamin D. From October to March however it becomes practically impossible; not only do our days become shorter but the intensity of the sunshine falls. People with dark skin will need to spend longer in the sun to produce the same amount of vitamin D as someone with lighter skin because melanin (the skin pigment) absorbs UV.

And unlike other vitamins, food sources of vitamin D are pretty limited. Our diet is often more processed than it should be, so it’s more likley that we don’t eat enough of the foods we need to. We also spend more time than ever indoors so over the last decade, out vitamin D levels have been slowly dropping.

Vitamin D is essential for bone health and growth but evidence is growing that also supports other possible roles in helping prevent certain cancers, heart disease, type-2 diabetes and depression and dementia.

So here are my top 3 tips on boosting your Vitamin D levels in the winter months ahead:


1. Eat more oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines

Aim for twice a week at least. Red meat, liver cheese and egg yolks are also good sources but that’s about it! Some foods have vitamin D added to them (they are fortified – breakfast cereals, spreads, non-dairy milk alternatives and some yoghurts) but the amounts can be very small and vary.

2. Go for Vit D enriched mushrooms!

Tesco and M&S have taken to exposing their mushrooms to UV light when they are grown to increase their vit D content.  Just 4 chestnut or 2 portobello mushrooms would provide your recommended daily a

3. Take a vitamin D supplement.

‘Vulnerable’ groups have long been recommended to take a D supplement but we now know that anyone over the age of 5 should consider taking¬†a 10 microgram (mcg) supplement, particularly in the winter months. ¬†Look for Vitamin D3 as this is the most active in the body.

You may qualify for Healthy Start vitamin supplements that can be given to pregnant and breast feeding mums and children under 4 for free. Otherwise, look for offers in pharmacies like Boots or online on Amazon

Vulnerable groups include:

  • Breastfed babies from birth to 12 months old¬†should have¬†a daily supplement containing 8.5-10 mcg of vitamin D. Infant formula milk is already fortified so babies having more than 500ml (~1 pint) of formula a day should not be given a supplement. Vitamin drops are available for babies and toddlers so it’s easy to give.
  • Children aged 1 to 4 years old should be given a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D. My son is 4 and I still use drops that I squirt into his morning cereal but you can also get fruity chewable¬†tablets too.
  • The over 65’s and the following groups would benefit from¬†taking¬†10mcg¬†of vitamin D all year round.
  • Anyone who spends much of their time indoors (e.g.¬†those who are frail, housebound¬†¬†or in a care home)
  • Anyone who usually wears clothes that cover up most of their skin when outdoors
  • Anyone with¬†African, African-Caribbean or South Asian family origin

If you are not sure or worried you are not getting enough vitamin D, speak to a registered nutritionist, dietitian or your doctor.