For the next instalment of my Good.Mood.Food series, I wanted to share with you the amazing benefits of green tea. Many people that are trying to “be healthier” ditch the caffeinated drinks and green tea tends to fall into this category for them, but the caffeine in green tea is gentler than in coffee – there’s not only a lower quantity of it, but it’s also buffered by the presence of an amino acid called L-theanine. I find L-theanine to be such a powerful nutrient for me personally – it supports neurotransmitters in the body, supporting the brain by producing an anti-anxiety effect. My morning green tea is therefore a non-negotiable for me, and my kids know that so I get my 5 mins peace to help me start my day on an even keel with love and patience.
But once in a while I switch up the tea bag for this lovely treat – a matcha latte. I used to always only have them when I could buy them out, but they’re remarkably easy to make – why not give it a go?
cup (250 mls) dairy-free milk ie, almond, rice or oat
1 tsp matcha green tea powder
1 tsp coconut oil
¼ tsp vanilla bean paste
tsp honey (optional)
Heat all ingredients gently in a pan at a low heat and ensure it does not reach boiling point. Either blitz in a Nutri bullet-style blender to froth, or whisk with a hand whisk for that authentic frothy “latte” feel.
I hope you enjoy that, and that it helps you to feel great. For more feel-good recipes, why not have a look at my Good.Mood.Food post?
Continuing with my Good.Mood.Food series on food to support mental health, I wanted to introduce you to buckwheat – have you tried it? When it comes to supporting mental health, it’s such a lovely source of supportive nutrients and definitely something I love to have in my weekly repertoire.
First of all, it’s high in protein – in fact it is one of only a few plant sources of protein that are considered “complete”, in that they contain some of all the essential amino acids that our bodies need to get from their food. Protein is so important for building neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers that we need for a happy mood). It also stabilises our blood sugar levels, keeping us feeling fuller for longer and also on a more even keel energy and mood wise.
It also contains a good dose of magnesium, manganese and B vitamins like niacin, riboflavin and B6, all of which are important for our brain health amongst other things!
Buckwheat flour is used a lot in Brittany, northern France, for making “galettes” – savoury pancakes like these, and that’s exactly where I discovered it many years ago, long before I had any appreciation for its nutritional benefits. You can fill these pancakes with whatever you fancy, I like a simple ham and cheese which also goes down well with the kids and is a brilliant toddler food when cut into strips like an alternative quesadilla. Here I’ve made a simple ratatouille and topped with a little hard goat’s cheese, and accompanied it with a green side salad to further boost the nutrient density of my meal.
100g buckwheat flour
Pinch of salt
300mls mls water (approx.)
Knob of butter, melted (optional)
Mix the egg into the flour and salt using a whisk, then gradually add the water until it has a smooth and runny but not watery consistency. Add in the melted butter if using and thoroughly mix in. You want to be able to pour pancakes that are as thin as you would expect to make sweet ones.
Heat a little butter in a large frying pan to a medium – high heat, pour the batter and leave to cook for approx 2 mins until it is dry on top and comes away from the sides easily (don’t try to remove it to quickly or it will stick and tear). Once it comes away, flip it over and cook the other side for 30 seconds – 1 minute.
Repeat as necessary add your fillings and then fold or roll
The batter will last in the fridge for a couple of days in an airtight container if you don’t want to eat them all at once. They can also be stored cold in the fridge and used as wraps for lunches / lunchboxes
Do let me know what you think, and I hope you’re enjoying my series on Good.Mood.Food – the full blog post and links to more recipes for your mental health are here.
There’s something quite cosy going on in my home, sheltered inside amidst the chaos. There’s an attempt at home schooling that has moments of varying success, there’s some cabin fever at having only our immediate family for company and a distinct lack of “me” time despite not being able to go anywhere, and yet I am spending precious time with my kids and teaching them all the things I also love to do… like baking!
These rock cakes are a variation of a recipe that my mum used to bake with me and my sister. Blissfully easy to do with small people, and as the name suggests, the appearance is better when no attention is paid to it at all. And so very comforting for me as a memory of my childhood, albeit I’ve switched out some of the less than healthy ingredients (hello glace cherries!) for some more wholesome alternatives.
200g wholemeal flour (I used spelt)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
150g dried fruit – I used 50g raisins, 50g chopped dates and 50g chopped apricots
30g chopped mixed nuts
80g brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
grated rind of 1 lemon
1 large egg, beaten
2-3 tbsp milk
Prepare a 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake cases and pre-heat the oven to 200C (180C fan assisted)
Measure out the flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl, and stir together
Add the butter to the flour mix, chopped into 1-2cm square cubes
Rub the flour and butter together with your fingers. This was always a step emphasised by my mum as being important not to over-heat the butter and make a doughy consistency, but I don’t find that true in reality (sorry Mum!) so the kids get stuck in
Clean children’s hands thoroughly so that the mix remains mostly in the bowl!
Add the sugar, dried fruit, nuts and lemon rind and mix together
Add the egg and milk and stir to form a thick mixture that can be scooped out – then scoop it out dividing evenly into the cupcake cases
Bake for approx 20 minutes, until golden brown on top, then leave to cool on a wire rack for as long as the small people can wait.
Do please let me know what you think of these! Other great family bakes to try are:
So here’s an aspect of my work that doesn’t necessarily spring to mind when you’re thinking about a nutritionist – bath products. But what we put on our bodies is just as important as what we put in them too, and there’s plenty of reasons to be just as sceptical of a long list of ingredients on the back of your toiletries as you should be of your food products.
Not so long ago I was merrily purchasing bath bombs from a well-known high-street chain that professes to be “natural” and “environmentally friendly” – indeed they are making huge strides in this industry and don’t use lots of plastic packaging etc. But here’s the catch – I didn’t look at the ingredients, I just trusted them! Yep, I’m also a busy mum trying not to neglect my kids as I juggle work and the ever elusive balance so bam, quick bath bomb treats and everyone’s a winner right?
But no… one day they stuck the ingredients label on the package and as I sat on the bus heading home my gaze landed on it… In this instance it was SLS that popped out at me, but there are a number of others that you also want to be mindful of.
SLS – this is what makes products bubbly, something we probably desire in our bathroom products, but actually it is hugely irritating for the skin and can strip it of water, essentially damaging it. If you’re prone to eczema or sensitive skin, this one is a definite no-no.
SLES – this is a bit like SLS, but the additional processing that makes it kinder to the skin than SLS can actually create a toxin (1,4-dioxane) that has been linked to cancer. So I will pass on that too…
Parabens – these are essentially preservatives, anti-bacterial agents that ensure products have a long and stable shelf life. These are what hit the headlines a while ago because research has started to show that they can mimic hormones like oestrogen in the body, essentially interfering with our hormonal balance. In addition, they are playing a role in contaminating water, and spreading these effects further into our planet’s delicate ecosystem and wildlife so another that I avoid.
I won’t make this article too long, but if you’re interested in learning more about the ingredients in your kids toiletries, here’s a great article from Green People For me, it’s a simple answer – as much as I can I am making my own or sharing batches with friends and family; that way I know that only safe natural ingredients are involved, and bonus – we are having an absolute blast doing it too! If you want to get started, I absolutely love this book, Natural Beauty by Karen Gilbert – it’s got “grown-up” recipes, but you can adapt them to make more fun versions for kids which is exactly what I’ve done here!
Recipe: Natural Bath Bombs (Makes 8)
300g bicarbonate of soda
150g citric acid
50g corn flour
natural food colouring liquid or powder – amount varies*
lavender essential oil – approx 50 drops**
biodegradable glitter – as little as small hands will allow!
water in a spray bottle
Silicone cupcake case
Combine the bicarb, citric acid and corn flour in a large mixing bowl, then add the food colouring, essential oil and glitter mix thoroughly with your hands – you may wish to use rubber gloves for this as it’s quite harsh on the skin.
Continue to mix the mixture whilst spraying with water until it forms a consistency that whilst still loose, will pack and stick into the silicone cupcake forms, which is the final step.
Leave the bathbombs in the silicone moulds for 24 hours in a dry warm spot (the airing cupboard is perfect but the counter top also works just fine.
For a fun variation, split the recipe in half and make two separate batches with different colours. You can also substitute the glitter for dried flowers like lavender – once you start, you’ll soon get the hang of these and make infinite numbers of different and fun creations!
* You can use a variety of sources for this, but I have thus far stuck to the good old Waitrose Essential range.
**Lavender essential oil I buy from The Natural Dispensary – do have a look at their essential oils selection, and you can use the code POHL10 alongside my name (Catherine Pohl) to get a 10% discount (full disclosure, I also get a referral bonus when you do).
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it’s important that we get it right! This is often the first place I start with my private clients, but why and what are they doing wrong? Well, many processed breakfast cereals release their carbohydrate content very quickly (even if they are labelled “low sugar”) and are really lacking in essential nutrients that we need to thrive. It’s a scientific fact that if the first meal we eat in the day is high in protein, we consume less overall throughout the day, and I for one know how much better I’m able to concentrate and keep going when I eat a good high-protein breakfast.
So, one of my favourite breakfasts is home-made granola. Making granola might look complicated and time-consuming, but I assure you, once you get in the swing of it, it really isn’t that onerous and the benefits to your health and energy levels, as well as your wallet, will speak volumes!
This batch was inspired by my pick-you-own strawberry experience (I sliced and dehydrated these strawberries, but you can also buy them in health food stores, online shops, or substitute for another dried fruit such as raisins or cranberries).
I’ve called it “omega 3” because it’s rich in the fats that our body coverts to healthy omega 3 (think heart and brain health) and which tend to be lacking in many shop-bought cereals which often provide more omega 6 fats). Omega 3 in this recipe comes from the walnuts, flax seeds and hemp hearts, but you can mix it up with whatever you have to hand in terms of nuts and seeds.
Do have a go and let me know what you think!
3 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp cinnamon
3 cups oats
3 tbsp buckwheat
3 tbsp desiccated coconut
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tbsp ground flax seeds
2 tbsp hemp seed hearts
15g dehydrated or freeze-dried strawberry / raspberry pieces (or other fruit)
Method: 1. Preheat the oven to 160C
2. Gently melt the coconut oil in a pan, then mix in the honey, vanilla and cinnamon
3. Blitz the nuts slightly in a food processor or blender, to make chunks of varying sizes rather than whole nuts
4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, nuts, buckwheat, coconut and seeds, then pour over the coconut oil honey mix and mix well together
5. Pour the mix into a deep sided baking tray and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven to mix the mixture, preventing it from burning on the top and sticking together, then return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Repeat again with a final 10 minutes cooking time, then remove, mix the mixture one last time and leave to cool.
Once cool, mix in the freeze-dried berries and transfer to an airtight container. This will last 2-4 weeks kept in a cool and dark cupboard. Serve with full-fat plain yogurt or milk.