So many alternatives to alcohol…

A quick brainstorm comes up with lots of reasons why you might not want to drink alcohol – aside from the obvious alcohol abuse.

You might be trying to lose weight, or be on a fitness programme. There might be spiritual reasons or you may want to follow a healthier lifestyle.

You might be pregnant, on medication or have an ongoing illness.

Aside from anything else consuming alcohol washes vitamins and nutrients out of your system. There are benefits of course, alcohol has been enjoyed by many for centuries. But few people know the range of non-alcoholic drinks out there.

Breckland Orchard make various sparkling fruit drinks with special infusions such as Strawberry and Rhubarb or Cranberry and Rosehip. Other drinks companies offer their own specially made versions: Free Natural offer caffeine free drinks, Thorncroft promise no added sugar and Luscombe drinks are organic.

Another organic brand, particularly for the party feel are The Organic Collection’s sparkling fruit berry drinks. Rock’s are also an organic brand but they specialise in varieties of flavoured water.

Fentimans brew traditional tasting beverages such as cola, dandelion & burdock, jigger and ginger beer.

Fancy a bottle of bubbly?
Fancy a bottle of bubbly?

In fact there’s heavy competition between ginger drinks all round, with options like Gran Stead’s Ginger Wine, Great Uncle Cornelius Finest Spiced Ginger or Rochester’s Organic Hot Toddy and more.

Of course, there are many fruit juices as well. James White are are a notable bottled brand in this area.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning the popular Yorkshire Punch made with infusions of herbs and spices, and Rochester’s Mulled Berry or Rum and Raisin – just in case you’re looking for something with true Christmas spirit.

So many pleasurable drinks and you’ll be able to enjoy more than the odd tipple.

Don’t forget about Gift Vouchers

When you can’t think of what to buy someone, there’s always gift vouchers.

Especially if that person is into fitness and health, or has a special diet such as gluten free or vegan. We make it our speciality to provide the kind of foods they love.

Gift voucher. Add your own messgae and send it with love.
Add your own message and send it with love.

Imagine receiving a card with a handwritten message from a loved one through the post, inviting you to go shopping online for free!

It really couldn’t be simpler. You just pay the amount you want to give, add your message, and leave the rest to us.

Gift vouchers. Easy as a gluten free mince pie.

Fall For The Comforting Flavours Of Dr Stuart’s Beneficial Blends This Winter

If you’re thinking of stocking up ready to fight off those winter ailments and ensure your immune system is firing on all cylinders during the coming cold months, you can rest assured that Dr Stuart’s remarkable range of warming herbal teas has a beneficial blend to help you every step of the way.

Help your body absorb vitamin C
It’s a known fact that vitamin C is the most important nutrient in helping to bolster the immune system to help it fight off those unwanted winter coughs, colds and infections; but did you know in order to ensure that vitamin C is working to the max, bioflavanoids (found in a many plants) play a vital role in enhancing its absorption?  Trace elements of these powerful vitamins and minerals can be found in many plant sources.  As Dr Stuart’s herbal teas are made with ‘Active Botanicals, the highest quality herbs from the most prized parts of the plant with the greatest essential oil content possible, why not stock up this winter on Dr Stuart’s warming beneficial blends that can help boost your defences, while giving you that feel good factor?

Echinacea, elderflower and other enriching teas
Keep a pack of Dr Stuart’s Echinacea Plus handy to help boost your body’s natural defences and keep you fighting-fit. This refreshing herbal infusion is packed with hibiscus, peppermint, rosehip and blackberry leaves and enriched with echinacea to boost your immune system and help keep colds at bay.

When it’s chilly outside, why not sit back and sip one of the newest blends, Dr Stuart’s Elderflower and Lemon to keep you toasty on the inside?  For hundreds of years people have looked to the elderflower for its healing properties, as it’s thought that the plant can help lower a fever, reduce inflammation and soothe irritation.  This fragrant combination will satisfy your palate as well as your body.

If you do succumb to a sore throat, Dr Stuart’s offers a simple and altogether more enjoyable way to ease your discomfort. Make yourself a soothing cup of Dr Stuart’s Throat Relief and let its blend of comforting herbs including liquorice root, marshmallow root, cinnamon, myrtle leaves and cloves coat your throat and help melt away your symptoms.

For those miserable wintry mornings when it’s hard to climb out of bed, Dr Stuart’s Detox, packed with the pure natural flavours of dandelion and burdock, sage, ginger, peppermint and spearmint, will help to cleanse and refresh your system from the inside out, giving you just the kick-start you need.

Finally, if you feel like a reviving pick-me-up, make yourself a delectable cup of Dr Stuart’s Apple and Ginger tea.  Its wonderfully spicy blend of fruity apple and invigorating ginger laced with cinnamon will warm you through and through!

Only Dr Stuart’s that are made with are made with ‘Active Botanicals,’ meaning you get the maximum taste and health benefit from each and every cup.

Cheese and crackers after dinner – simple

It’s eight o’ clock. What do you serve guests as an after dinner treat?

Some people might immediately think of mints and chocolate, or perhaps a light biscuit to go with coffee, but distinguished diners might prefer a Port, whiskey or some after dinner liqueur.

Cheese and crackers will make a great accompaniment to the digestif drink. Even after a meal full of amazing taste and exquisite dessert, I will always still have room for the delight of a good cheese full of flavour with a dry cracker to tease and cleanse the palate.

After dinner delights
After dinner delights

For the best cheese you have to go for organic. Simon Weaver make some wonderful brie and Lye Cross cover a full range: cheddar, double gloucester, red leicester, wensleydale, blue stilton, caerphilly.

However, if you want something truly distinctive then Calon Wen’s  extra mature cheddar simply has to be sampled for its creamy powerful flavour.

As for the crackers, I prefer the softness of an oatcake, especially now they come in all sorts of flavours (try Nairn’s or Paterson’s). However, sticking to the organic theme, Clearspring and Village Bakery have the edge. Village Bakery also bake an appetising Savoury Seed Biscuit.

If you are concerned about coeliac diners then it’s worth noting that Trufree provide gluten free crackers and Nairn’s a gluten free oatcake.

Also, there are a good variety of vegan cheeses out there so you can cover all eventualities without compromising on style.

Bon appétit.

Why I can’t diet without a good night’s sleep

If you’re planning to lose weight in the new year but you haven’t got your sleep sorted you’re starting with a serious disadvantage.

At least that’s my experience. If I don’t sleep my self control when it comes to food is wrecked. I just can’t stop feeling hungry.

We need to be getting 7.5 hours of good sleep. If it’s not restful or it’s a shorter night, then the metabolism is slower and, chemically, you’ll feel hungrier – two great ingredients for a failed diet. And, when you think about it, the fact that you’re tired is also less likely to motivate you to get any exercise done.

So, sort your sleep out first.

Sleep helps dieting
Sleep helps dieting

A good night’s sleep increases the amount of leptin hormone in your body – which tells you when to stop eating. Less sleep means more of the ghrelin hormone which tells you to eat more! It’s a vicious circle, bad sleep = lack of energy = eating more carbs = lethargy = no exercise = restless sleep.

It’s a good idea to learn some good sleeping habits.

To help regulate your sleep (especially of you know you’re about to have a bad night) you may want to try a herbal sleeping aid.

These come in two strengths:
a lighter version such as Kalms Sleep which will help you get a good rest during sleep (1 tablet =  45mg of valerian)
a stronger variety like Kalms Night for the occasional night when you can’t sleep (1 tablet = 500mg of valerian)

(Kalms do also make a new formula Day version for the relief of stress and anxiety for you herbal fans out there.)

The use of natural ingredients such as hops, passion flower, valerian and lettuce makes a lot of sense to me – these are traditional ingredients well known for their ability to induce sleep and are used by a lot of other herbal companies. If by helping me sleep better it means they also help contribute to weight loss in the long run then that’s no bad thing.

Do you need to go caffeine free?

A friend of mine gave up coffee once and was surprised by the headaches he started having – such was his dependency. Another friend gave up coffee after e experienced regular palpitations – they disappeared pretty soon after that.

I guess coffee affects some people more than others. It’s not a problem for me, it doesn’t keep me awake, I don’t get a buzz – all that I enjoy is the taste.

However, I couldn’t help but notice, when recently researching the benefits of good nutrition on our happiness, that caffeine can have a detrimental effect on your mood. Again, it depends who you are, but if coffee makes you feel happy (it’s supposed to boost serotonin) it can also cause a cycle of ups and downs which may eventually lead to depression. Caffeine is also thought to block receptors in your body which might otherwise be used for the intake of iron and other important nutrients. Then there are questions over whether caffeine is bad for blood pressure, dehydration and insomnia.

But coffee is great! There’s nothing like that heady aroma, the bitter smooth taste and the ritualised tradition of waking up to a new day. And caffeine can also be been associated with health benefits such as a reduced risk of stroke or dementia.

The point is that you have to find your own way through the caffeine question. You might need to avoid green tea, coke, tea and even chocolate in an effort to detox from caffeine. If that’s the case it’s useful to know that there’s a plethora of caffeine free beverages out there, from rooibos tea to barley cup, fruit or herbal infusions and a range of other alternatives. Have you ever heard of dandelion coffee for example (apparently it’s delicious) or carob or chicory or slippery elm, even acorn coffee?

One man’s drink, as they say, is certainly another man’s poison.

Love, Chocolate and Montezuma’s Christmas

Do you love hot chocolate?

Christmas Drinking Chocolate
Christmas Drinking Chocolate

I do!

I must average about 3 hot chocolates a week at least and my quota definitely goes up during the winter.

So, I am very eager to try Montezuma’s Christmas Drinking Chocolate. (The Christmassy part consists of organic nutmeg and cinnamon, plus organic, vanilla flavoured, dark chocolate.)

Truth be told, I love Montezuma’s eccentric use of spices. (Oops I’ve just used the word love twice in a blog about chocolate – my self control must be slipping.)

Chilli, lime, sea salt, orange, ginger, geranium! – And they dare to do it with white chocolate too. You may also need to add some of their suitably spiced white ‘chocolate snowballs’ to your basket next time you’re shopping.

Monty's Advent Calender
Monty's Advent Calender

It’s probably my own opinion but Montezuma’s do Christmas with just the right amount of panache. If you’re looking for a gluten free advent calendar the question Montezuma’s will ask is if you want that in dark, milk or white chocolate? (Montezuma’s chocolate is usually gluten free and organic and not uncommonly vegan too.)

If it’s a gift you want then you can choose from a Mini Bar Gift Box, a Truffle Box or a 12 days of Christmas limited edition gift box or a stocking filler of chocolate snowmen or their Chocolate Library and more…

But, whatever your chocolate fancy, I do have one polite request, please just don’t get in between me and my hot chocolate. I can’t promise to be responsible for my consequential actions.