Apricot, oat and almond balls

C85E4C94-81EB-487D-B915-9F7095635536.jpegDelicious, crunchy balls perfect for an on-the-go snack, or quick breakfast. High in protein, fibre and the minerals iron and calcium.

Keep these in a sealed jar, or pot in the fridge and eat within 7 days. Also suitable for freezing.

Ingredients:

  • 135g porridge oats
  • 160g dried apricots (or use 80g dried apricots & 80g sultanas or dates)
  •  20g maple syrup, or honey
  •  120g almond butter
  •  1 tsp cinnamon
  • 10g – 15g chia seeds
  • 1/2 – 1 tbsp water

Instructions:

Put all the ingredients, except the water, into a food processor and process until coming together.  Add up to 1 tbsp of water if the mixture is too dry. It should come together easily, but not be wet or sticky. If the mixture is too wet, add a few more oats.

Empty the mixture onto a baking mat, or parchment, and roll into small bite size balls. Then roll each ball in desiccated coconut, or ground almonds as you prefer. Keep in a sealed container in the fridge.

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Vibrant super green soup!

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Batch cooking at the weekend, or whenever you have a spare couple of hours to spend in the kitchen, is a brilliant way of getting healthy meals lined up for the week ahead. I often batch cook soup, stews and curries on a Sunday afternoon so I have meals on hand for busy week-days.

This soup is really quick & easy to prepare and cook. It’s also a delicious way to eat your daily greens! Leafy green veg,  such as kale, are packed with minerals including iron, calcium and magnesium. They have numerous health benefits; not least evidence shows that people who eat leafy greens every day have younger brains than those who eat them less often!

You will need:

Ingredients: (makes 3 generous bowls)

  • 1 leek, finely sliced
  • 1 courgette, diced
  • 2 handfuls of broccoli florets
  • 50g of kale
  • 50g of spinach
  • 300g frozen peas or petit pois
  • 1.5 pints of vegetable stock
  • a pinch of salt & pepper, to taste
  • a drizzle of cold pressed rapeseed, or light olive oil

Instructions:

  • Drizzle a little oil into a large pan and heat gently, then add the leek. Stir and cook very gently on a low heat until softened.
  • Add the courgette and broccoli, cook for a couple of minutes with the leek and then pour in around 1 litre of the stock.
  • Bring to the boil, add the kale, spinach and peas and turn down to a simmer for around 8 minutes. If there isn’t enough liquid to cover all the vegetables in the pan, add more stock. However this soup tastes best when it is thick and creamy, so don’t overdo the stock!
  • Add a little seasoning to taste and remove from the heat.
  • blend until smooth, serve with a little cracked black pepper on top.

 

 

 

 

Spicy red lentil, butternut & spinach stew – perfect for a chilly day!

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This cosy stew packs in plenty of colourful veggies and is full of fibre. The red lentils provide protein and iron, and buttternut & spinach are a great source of beta carotene (which the body converts to vitamin A). You can adjust the spice to taste..

You will need:

Ingredients: (makes 2 generous servings)

  • A little cold pressed rapeseed oil, or light olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • One 3 inch slice of butternut squash, peeled and diced into bite size chunks
  • 1/2 a red pepper, cut into bite sized chunks
  • 2 handfuls of fine green green beans, topped, tailed and cut in half
  • 50g of baby spinach
  • 1/2 a tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 60g of uncooked red lentils
  • 1/2 – 3/4 pint of vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli garlic sauce, or other chilli sauce
  • 1- 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 teaspoon mixed herbs
  • pinch of salt & pepper

Instructions

  • Drizzle a little oil into a large pan, heat gently and add the onion, garlic and paprika. Cook on a low heat, stirring all the time until onion is becoming translucent. Add a little water if becoming dry.
  • Next add the butternut, pepper, green beans, red lentils and tinned tomatoes. Stir for a minute to combine and then pour over 1/2 a pint of the vegetable stock. Add the chilli sauce and the herbs and stir well.
  • Bring to the boil and then simmer gently for around 20 minutes until the squash is softened.
  • Finally add the spinach, and cook for a further 5 minutes until the spinach has wilted down. If at any time the stew becomes too thick add a little more stock, or hot water.
  • Season as you like, taste and add more chilli sauce if you want it spicier!

Serve with bread on the side, or in a bowl with quinoa or brown rice. Enjoy!

New Recipe; Grain free, plant based blondies!

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These delicious little blondies are packed with fibre and protein, free of oil & butter and low in added sugar! They make a great after dinner treat, or a healthy snack to keep your energy levels topped up during the day. Using chickpeas instead of flour gives these blondies a denser texture and a lovely nutty flavour.

This recipe will make approximately 9 – 12 blondies.

The recipe has been lightly adapted from an original by Chocolate Covered Katie.

You will need:

Ingredients

  • 1 can of drained and rinsed chickpeas
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Pinch of rock salt
  • 1 tbsp xylitol, or coconut sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 20g of ground flaxseed or rolled oats
  • 60g of crunchy almond, peanut or other nut butter
  • 20-30g of dark chocolate chunks or chips

Method:

Simply put all the ingredients, except the chocolate chunks, into a food processor. Blend until thick and smooth. Add a little drizzle of water if the batter seems too thick to blend easily, but don’t overdo it as the batter should not be wet or runny. When smooth, add the chocolate chunks and stir to combine.

Place batter into a brownie tin, smooth out the top.

Bake at 180 degrees for 25 – 30 mins until lightly browned.

Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares, otherwise they may crumble.

Eat within 5 days, or freeze to enjoy for longer!

VARIATIONS:

Try adding some walnut, hazelnut or Brazil nut pieces to make these even nuttier, or try adding a little cocoa powder to make chocolate brownies!

Are you Confused about the best way to lose weight?

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We are virtually bombarded by ‘new year, new you’ messages in the media at this time of year, many of which are focussed on healthy eating and weight loss. Some people will find simply switching to a healthier lower sugar diet, eating less overall and / or doing more exercise is enough to shed a few unwanted pounds. However, others find it considerably harder and much more challenging to lose weight. This can be incredibly frustrating especially if either physical, or mental health and well-being are being affected by excess body weight.

So, why is weight loss so much harder for some people? Firstly it has to be said that the causes of weight gain are complex, and there is not one simple answer as to why we gain weight, or how we can lose weight. When a healthy, balanced diet and active lifestyle is not enough to shift excess weight, or prevent weight gain then it may be worth considering that there may be underlying factors hindering weight loss. There are a wide range of possible underlying imbalances which may prevent weight loss such as;

* imbalances in the gut bacteria

* poor blood sugar control

* sex hormone imbalance

* under active thyroid gland

* poorly functioning adrenal glands (these glands secrete various hormones including the stress hormone cortisol)

* inflammation

* imbalanced brain chemistry, or and imbalance in appetite controlling hormones

* A high level of toxins in the body

If you have consistently been struggling with losing excess weight, or you are gradually graining weight despite not having changed your diet or level of activity then it may be helpful to work with an experienced practitioner to help you identify whether any of the above factors are influencing your body weight, and/ or hindering your weight loss attempts.

When it comes to choosing a weight loss diet, it is as much about what you eat as how much. Equally important is finding a weight loss plan that suits you and fits into your lifestyle. Ideally, a weight loss diet should be sustainable and encourage long term better health and positive dietary change, rather than just being a ‘quick fix’ solution. The best evidence for long term weight loss, without risking nutrient deficiencies or other health problems, is a low GL diet, possibly combined with some form of intermittent fasting. But again, this ideally needs to be tailored to the individual.

Just as there are a myriad weight loss diets, there are also numerous supplements which claim to be able to help with weight loss. Again, the use of supplements should be tailored to the individual, but products which may help include; magnesium, B vitamins, chromium, ALA, L-Carnitine, omega 3 oils, live bacteria, and possibly green tea or coffee extracts. If stress is a big factor, then herbal supplements which help to normalise stress hormone production may help by reducing carbohydrate cravings and encouraging better blood sugar control.

Finally, don’t forget about sleep! Lack of sleep disrupts levels of the appetite hormone ghrelin, which can lead to carbohydrate cravings and overeating.

 

Are you taking part in Veganuary this year?

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Taking part in Veganuary is a great way to start on the path of eating a healthy plant based diet! However, not all plant based diets are created equal, and a poorly planned vegan diet can result in micronutrient deficiencies and health problems further down the line. If you are new to plant based eating, or have health concerns then seeking out professional advice to help ensure you are enjoying a healthy and nutritionally complete diet can be a really good idea. If this sounds like you, then a mini consultation may be just what you need to point you in the right direction! For more details, and consultation fees please see the ‘consultations’ page..

 

 

Vitamin D; have you had your level tested recently?

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Vitamin D plays a vital role in our health and new evidence is emerging all the time relating to the risks associated with vitamin D deficiency. Most of us know that vitamin D is important for bone & teeth health, but it also plays a crucial role in our immune system and in managing inflammation.

Many people with inflammatory health concerns such as endometriosis, cancer, cardiovascular disease and autoimmune diseases are frequently found to have low vitamin D levels, with the severity of the vitamin deficiency often being linked to the severity of disease symptoms experienced.

Likewise having low vitamin D status may increase our risk of developing certain health conditions such as breast cancer (1), prostate cancer (2), type I diabetes (3) and other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (4), hashimoto’s thyroiditis (5) and MS (6).

As we approach the winter months most of us living in the UK, or the northern hemisphere, run the risk of becoming vitamin D deficient and it is essential to start thinking about taking a daily supplement. Let’s explore some of the facts about vitamin D such as; where do we get it, who is most at risk of vitamin D deficiency, and how much, and in what form should we supplement?

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is stored in the liver and fatty tissues of the body. It is often known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ as it is largely produced in the skin from exposure to sunlight, although small amounts can be obtained from some foods.

How can I get enough Vitamin D?

In the UK ultraviolet light is only strong enough for vitamin D to be produced in exposed skin from around 11am – 3pm during the summer months. Exposing your skin to the sun (without sunscreen), a few times a week for at least 15 minutes should allow your body to produce enough vitamin D. You do not need sunbathe; being outdoors in the sunlight with exposed hands, face, arms etc. is sufficient.

In the UK from October to March, vitamin D is obtained from bodily stores and food sources.

Food sources of vitamin D are largely animal based (e.g. eggs yolks and oily fish). People who do not eat animal foods can source vitamin D from fortified foods such as cereal, dairy free milk, fortified mushrooms and margarine.

Why is Vitamin D important?

Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium from food. Without enough vitamin D the body cannot absorb calcium properly. Because calcium is needed for healthy bones and teeth, Vitamin D also plays a very important role in healthy bones and teeth. A deficiency in Vitamin D can lead to rickets in children (which can cause bone deformities), and osteomalacia (softened bones) in adults. Deficiency is also linked to osteoporosis and poor oral health.

As mentioned above, ever emerging scientific research suggests that Vitamin D may also play many other vitally important roles in our health.

Who might not get enough Vitamin D?

People at risk of vitamin D deficiency include: babies and young children, children & adults who spend little time outside during the summer, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, people over 65 years of age, people with darker skin tones living in a northern climate, people living in areas of high air pollution and people who use high factor sunscreens or who cover most of their skin when outdoors. People who do not eat animal foods may also be at increased risk, as few plant foods provide vitamin D.

How can I find out if I am getting enough Vitamin D?

If you think you might be at risk for Vitamin D deficiency, ask your GP to check your vitamin D level with a simple blood test. During the winter months anyone can have low Vitamin D levels. For this reason it is a good idea to ask your GP to check your vitamin D levels at this time of year, even if you think you get enough Vitamin D during the rest of the year. I also offer at home vitamin D test kits; please contact me if this is something you are interested in.

Who should take a Vitamin D supplement?

Babies, young children (up to the age of 5), pregnant and breastfeeding women, the elderly and anyone else who has very little sun exposure (which is many of us!) should take a Vitamin D supplement all year round. Most vegetarians and vegans should also supplement with vitamin D year round.

How much Vitamin D should I take, and in what form?

The recommended daily intake for adults is 400iu per day, for children it is 200iu per day. However, if your vitamin D level is at the lower end of normal or you are deficient then you will need to supplement between 1000 – 10’000iu per day until your level increases. Ideally, for optimum health your vitamin D level should be within the moderate to high range of normal, and not below.

The best form of vitamin D to supplement is called vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol. The body more easily absorbs Vitamin D3 than Vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol. In preference choose a supplement that provides vitamin D3 derived the lichen plant, as other sources of vitamin D3 are usually derived from sheep’s wool. All vitamin D supplements that I recommend are derived from lichen.

References:

  1. https://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/low_vit_d
  2.  https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/health-conditions/prostate-cancer/
  3. http://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/24/2/113
  4. https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/in-rheumatoid-arthritis-vitamin-d-levels-are-related-to-disease-severity-inflammatory-cytokines-and-bone-loss/
  5. https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/study-link-between-vitamin-d-deficiency-and-autoimmune-thyroid-disease/
  6. https://www.mstrust.org.uk/life-ms/diet/vitamin-d

New; Mini Consultations!

 

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To increase the consultation options available to my clients I am now offering a ‘mini’ consultation service.

This includes a 30 minute consultation and a brief written summary of my advice. A mini consultation is suited to clients who do not have complex health concerns but who who would like some professional nutrition advice for instance on; healthy weight management, minor health concerns, choosing the right supplements or general health and well-being.

The fee for a mini consultation is £35.

if you are unsure as to whether a mini consultation is right for you, please do contact me for advice.

Go nuts for nuts!

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This weeks blog focuses on nuts! These little powerhouses of nutrition are fantastically good for us and we should all be eating them more often  – read on to find out why!

What are nuts?

Nut is a term used for a group of fruits and seeds that have a hard outer shell and an edible kernel inside. Nuts that are commonly included in the diet include walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, brazil, macadamia, peanut, cashew, sweet chestnut, pine nuts, pistachios etc. Note that the coconut is not actually a nut, but a fruit.

Why should we eat nuts?

Nuts are nutritional powerhouses packed with an exceptional variety of beneficial nutrients including protein, fibre, healthy mono-unsaturated fats (as found in olive oil) and essential fatty acids (omega 3 and 6), vitamins (such as vitamin E, B3 and folate), minerals (such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc) and trace elements (such as selenium).

Nuts are also a significant source of antioxidant phyto-chemicals (or plant chemicals) and phyto-sterols. Antioxidants are powerful anti-inflammatory substances which inhibit the cell damage that can lead to cancer, heart disease and other chronic health conditions. Phyto-sterols are known to be the single most effective substance for lowering levels of ‘bad’ (or LDL) cholesterol (10), and therefore have an important role to play in reducing the risk of heart disease (20).

How many nuts should we eat, and how often?

Adults should aim to eat 20– 30g of nuts every day (an open handful, or tbsp). Any kind of nuts will do, but raw unsalted nuts are best and variety is preferable in order to obtain the most benefit from the array of different nutrients found in nuts. There is very strong research indicating that people who eat at least 20g of nuts every day have a significantly reduced risk of developing a range of chronic diseases. A large review study carried out by imperial College London (2) found that people who included at least 20g of nuts per day in their diet reduced their risk of;

  • cancer by 15%
  • heart disease by 30%
  • premature death by 22%
  • type II diabetes by 40%

This study also found that eating a daily serving of nuts could decrease the risk of developing respiratory infections and other infectious diseases. There are few foods which can make such significant health claims, and based on this evidence there is no doubt that we should certainly all be adding a handful of nuts to our daily diet to protect and promote good health!

Nuts are high in fat, will eating them lead to weight gain?

Whilst nuts are a great source of many nutrients and antioxidants, they are also energy dense due their high fat content. People often assume that nuts should be limited or avoided for this reason because of concerns about their possible contribution to weight gain. However, evidence to date suggests that eating nuts is not associated with weight gain. This is largely because nuts are high in fibre, protein & fat and are therefore very filling; helping to manage hunger levels and prevent over-eating. Moreover studies suggest that the energy (calories) in nuts is not very efficiently absorbed, and so nuts may not contribute as many calories to the diet as we might expect (24).

What is the best way to eat nuts?

Nuts are best eaten raw and un-salted whenever possible, but they can also be eaten roasted or used in cooking. When buying nut butters look for those without added oils, sugar or salt. Store ground nuts in an airtight container in the fridge to prevent their delicate fatty acids from becoming rancid. Nut oils e.g. walnut oil can also be used in moderation, but whole nuts are far much better as they provide more nutrients; oils are not associated with the same benefit as whole nuts.

Pre-soaking nuts in water for a few hours or overnight may improve their digestibility. The idea of pre-soaking nuts is essentially to help break them down so that they are already partially ‘digested’ before they are eaten. This may help the body to absorb the nutrients more efficiently, although there is little research to prove whether or not this is actually so. Therefore it is not essential to pre-soak nuts, but it may perhaps be beneficial for anyone who has a weaker digestive system e.g. the elderly, those with chronic illnesses and anyone with a chronic digestive complaint such as IBS or Crohn’s disease. However there may be health concerns with soaked brazil nuts (34), so it may be wise to eat these nuts as they are.

What is probably more important than pre-soaking for most people is to chew nuts thoroughly before swallowing; this enables all the good nutrients to be released and digested.

Are some nuts better for health than others?

Whilst all nuts are thought to make a positive contribution to health, nuts all have unique nutritional profiles meaning that some may benefit specific areas of health more than others, as follows:

NUTRITION IN A NUTSHELL

    • Almonds: (BLOOD VESSELS, BRAIN, BONES) These nuts are very nutrient dense and as such confer many health benefits. Some studies have found eating almonds to be particularly effective at lowering levels of bad cholesterol (8). Almonds are also a very rich source of vitamin E, which has been found to help slow cognitive decline in the elderly (7). They are also a great source of calcium and magnesium, both of which are essential for bone health. Almonds are also a great source of protein required for normal growth and development, as well as the building and repair of muscle tissue.
    • Brazil nuts: (THYROID, HEART, BONES, BRAIN/ HEAD) These nuts are an abundant source of the mineral selenium, which is often deficient in the modern diet. Selenium has an important role to play in the immune system (3), in the health of the thyroid gland (4) and plays a role in supporting liver detoxification. NOTE THAT DUE TO THE HIGH SELENIUM CONTENT OF BRAZIL NUTS NO MORE THAN 2 – 3 KERNELS SHOULD BE EATEN PER DAY. Brazil nuts are also high in magnesium which helps to protect heart and bone health and reduce the risk of developing type II diabetes (9). Magnesium has also been found to reduce the frequency and severity of headaches in migraine sufferers (28). Brazil’s also provide a good amount of iron essential for building red blood cells, normal growth and development and the production of some hormones and connective tissue (11). Young children, women of child bearing age and pregnant women are at increased risk of iron deficiency and should take special care to ensure their diet provides plenty of iron rich foods (11).
    • Walnuts: (HEART, BRAIN, PROSTATE GLAND) These nuts are rich in omega 3 fatty acids which are known to help protect heart health (5), to be essential for normal brain development in the young, and to help prevent cognitive decline in the elderly (6). Walnuts have also been studied for their ability to both reduce the risk, and improve the prognosis of prostate cancer (25)
    • Peanuts: (MUSCLES, HEART) These nuts are officially classed as a legume, and have a very high protein content. As such they are great for supporting healthy growth and development, and for building and repairing muscle tissue. Peanuts are also a good source of fibre, vitamin E, vitamin B3, folate and heart healthy mono-unsaturated fat. Studies suggest that the regular consumption of peanuts can help to reduce heart disease risk by lowering levels of bad cholesterol (18).
    • Macadamia: (HEART) This nut has the highest mono-unsaturated fat content of all the nuts and is therefore great for heart health and for lowering bad cholesterol levels.
    • Cashew nuts: (SKIN, RED BLOOD CELLS) These nuts are a great source of zinc, which plays important roles in the immune system, bone and skin heath and wound repair (16). Zinc also contributes to the health of the respiratory tract (21). Cashew nuts are also a very good source of iron.
    • Pecan: (RESPIRATORY TRACT, GUT, DNA & CELLULAR HEALTH) Like cashew nuts, pecans are a very good source of zinc. In addition to the benefits detailed above, zinc is also recognised for its role in protecting and repairing the health of the gut lining and has been found to be very effective at helping to repair the damage to the gut caused by inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s (22). Research has also found pecans to have the highest antioxidant capacity of all nuts, meaning that they may help to decrease the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s (24).
    • Hazelnuts: (FETAL DEVELOPMENT) These are a good source of folate; a B vitamin which is vital for preventing neural tube defects in unborn babies, and which may also help reduce the risk of developing some forms of cancer (12). Like many other nuts they are also a good source of heart healthy mono-unsaturated fat, and a reasonable source of iron.
    • Pistachios: (MUSCULOSKELETAL MUSCLES & HEART, BLOOD VESSELS) These nuts are rich in potassium, a mineral which is essential for building muscle, for healthy growth and for maintaining the electrical activity of the heart (13). Pistachios also have a high content of phyto-sterols; chemicals which are proven to lower bad cholesterol levels (19).

How can we get more nuts into our diets?

Nuts bring flavour, texture and colour to meals, and different nuts complement different dishes. There are hundreds of creative ways to incorporate nuts into your meals and snacks; try some of the following ideas to get more nuts into your diet!

  • BREAKFAST:

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Add whole or crushed nuts to cereal, muesli or porridge, or try nut butter stirred into porridge, added to a smoothie or spread onto toast.

  • LIGHT MEALS:

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Add whole nuts such as pine nuts, cashews, almonds or walnuts to salads , or grind and sprinkle them over the top. Cashew nuts can be used in place of cream in soups (just add nuts to the saucepan with the other ingredients, and bled into a creamy soup when done cooking). Use nut butter in place of dairy butter in sandwiches.

  • MAIN MEALS:

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Add cashew nuts to curries, stews and stir fries. Walnuts and pine nuts are great with pasta, pistachios fit perfectly with Moroccan and African dishes. Make more nutritious  pizza base by swapping some of the flour for ground almonds.

  • SNACKS:

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Nuts make a great snack all on their own, or eaten alongside fruit, dried fruit or coconut chips. Alternatively try using nut butter as a dip for crudités or chopped fruit, or spread onto crackers, rice cakes or oatcakes. Cashew nut yoghurt (by ‘Nush’) also makes a healthy snack or dessert.

What about nut allergies?

Nuts can provoke a very severe allergic reaction in a small number of people. If you have a history of nut allergies in the family it is important to be cautious when introducing nuts to new babies in the family. However there is evidence that introducing nuts at a very early age can help to prevent the development of nut allergies in future. Children under five shouldn’t eat whole nuts due to the risk of choking; instead try giving young children nut butters (e.g. spread on toast or bread) and ground nuts mixed into their food.

Nutrition For New Mums Workshop; 21st April – South Leicester

newborn-baby-mother-adorable-38535.jpegOn Saturday 21st of April I will be hosting an afternoon nutrition workshop specifically designed to support new Mums of babies aged up to 12 months. Mums to be are also welcome!

As a Mum of two boys myself, I know the challenges of finding the time, energy and motivation to eat healthily when caring for small children, especially young babies! I will be drawing on my professional expertise, as well as my experience as a Mum to support you with:

 Planning healthy, quick and easy meals & snacks

Recovery from pregnancy and birth

Meeting the demands of breastfeeding

Improving your energy levels & mood

Losing excess weight in a healthy & sustainable manner

The workshop will be held in South Leicester, and will include

Tea / coffee and healthy snacks

Q & A session

Hand-outs, meal planner & recipes to take home (these can be personalised to dietary requirements)

Babies under 6 months (non-mobile!) are also welcome to attend!

Support will be available after the session via a private Facebook group, and via individual nutrition consultations, if required.

The fee for the session is £30 per Mum

Watch this page for further updates on venue and time!

To book your place, or for more details please contact me on 07881 373 834, at nourishandrenew@gmail.com, or via the ‘contact’ link here on my website..