Food & Drink

Packing The Perfect Picnic

Packing The Perfect Picnic – Foods To Help You Sleep

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What better way to soak up the sunshine of summer than with a picnic? It’s a great British way to spend time with your children, friends or loved ones al fresco style throughout the summer.

However what you eat and drink in the afternoon will affect your sleep. Certain fatty or fried foods consumed later in the day can sabotage your sleep, so if you’re planning an afternoon summer picnic we’ve come up with a lists of recommended foods that will prep you for a good night’s sleep:

Sandwiches:

A selection of whole grain sandwiches, pittas or wraps makes for a great picnic. Sandwiches filled with Turkey will give you the winning combination of carbohydrates and tryptophan needed to control your sleep. Fishy fillings such as tuna and salmon are also a good choice as they are high in vitamin B6, which your body needs to make the sleep-triggering melatonin and serotonin.

Cheese and crackers:

Cheese and whole grain crackers are great alternative to sandwiches. The whole grains help produce serotonin, and cheese like most dairy products, contain tryptophan. Try a French Brie or Camembert, which will ooze deliciously in the heat, rather than a hard cheese such as Cheddar, which will go oily when left in the sun.

Nuts:

Nuts are a great healthy snack to include within your picnic because they contain many of the minerals needed for quality sleep. Try almonds rich in magnesium or walnuts which are a good source of tryptophan, a sleep-enhancing amino acid that helps make serotonin and melatonin.

Carrots and Hummus:

Chickpeas are also a good source of tryptophan, so opting for a side dip of hummus with carrots could be a good way to head into an afternoon nap. Carrots also contain several sleep promoting nutrients like potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin A.

Salad:

A side salad with your afternoon picnic is a good option if you have difficulty dropping off at night. Lettuce contains lactucarium which has sedative-like properties that can affect the brain the same way opium does, promoting restfulness and sleep.

Cherry juice:

Switch fizzy drinks for a glass of cherry juice which naturally boost levels of melatonin and can increase overall sleep efficiency.

Sleep To Exam Success

Sleep To Exam Success

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A good night’s sleep may not be high on the agenda for many students, however memory function certainly is and according to research sleep is key to successful learning.

Research published by the Sleep Council, found that more than half of teenagers confessed to regularly cramming all their revision for an exam into one night.

Lisa Artis of The Sleep Council said: “Our research shows that a worryingly high number of teenagers are not getting as much sleep as they need to function and perform at their best in the build up to exams. They are sacrificing sleep to study when in fact they might be more mentally alert cramming in extra sleep rather than more revision.”

When a person is sleep-deprived they will not be able to focus their attention optimally and therefore will not learn new information efficiently.

Most people will recognise that on the days you sleep better you feel energised, stimulated and motivated and this is the ideal mental environment for those revising.

With a good night’s sleep the brain is able to process and retain new information over the long term because sleep has a crucial role in the consolidation of memory. This is when the brain backs up short-term patterns and creates long-term memories so you are able to recall information you have learnt more efficiently.

Professor Della Sala of Human Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh says for those revising “it’s a good idea to learn something just before going to bed, and then let your brain do the work.”

If your teenager is battling the exam period and you are unsure of how you can help them find time for quality sleep, we’ve come up with some top tips to assist:

1. PREPARATION.

Help your teenager draw up a revision timetable of all the subjects they need to revise and when – and make sure they try and stick to it. This will help them use their time more efficiently; reducing stress and anxiety levels and avoiding that last minute cramming.

2. ENCOURAGE REST.

Revising in stages and getting enough sleep in-between sessions means your teenager will consolidate new information more effectively. A power nap of just 45 minutes can boost the memory by five times, research has found.

3. EAT WELL.

Stress eating throughout the exam period can seriously disrupt your teenager’s sleep. Encourage them to ditch the chocolate and crisps by keeping healthy, easy-to-eat snacks around such as nuts, yoghurt and bananas, which are all loaded with the sleep-inducing tryptophan.

Read more tips on foods to help you sleep.

5. LIMIT CAFFEINE.

Caffeine is a stimulant which can generally interfere with your sleep and body clock if consumed later in the day. Try to encourage your teenager to avoid all sources of caffeine from 2pm – this includes things like tea, chocolate, and fizzy drinks. They could opt for a caffeine-free herbal tea before bed such as camomile tea which has a sedative effect to help them sleep well.

6. PRIORITISE.

The sheer amount of revision to be done may sometimes seem overwhelming for your teenager. Help them set out priorities and break it down into manageable chunks. If they work on the most urgent topics first it will help reduce anxiety.

7. EXERCISE.

Your teenager will be spending a great deal of time on the computer or with their head in a book, so it’s important for them to take regular breaks to stay productive. Encourage them to exercise little and often throughout the exam period – just a simple walk to the shops can help them clear their head so that they return refreshed to their revision.

8. CLEAR MIND.

You may find your teenager worrying over revision and exams and this will often keep their brain active at night. Offer them a notebook to keep by their bed so that they can write thoughts down before sleeping. Meditation and breathing exercises can also help clear the mind ready for sleep.

9. SLEEP WELL.

Sleep is food for the brain. On average most teenagers only get around 7 hours of sleep a night, when they should be getting at least nine hours of sleep. Check your teenager has a good sleeping environment – ideally a room that is dark, cool and quiet (black out blinds may help during the summer). Ensure they are sleeping on a comfortable, supportive mattress to encourage quality sleep.

Healthy Bed Time Snacks

Healthy Bed Time Snacks To Help You Sleep

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If you find yourself hungry at night but find those late night snacking sessions lead you to a restless nights sleep, you may need to consider what foods you are eating before bedtime.

Nutritionist Linda Foster says: “It makes perfect sense that our diet can affect our sleep quality”.

A low calorie snack, around 200 calories, will mean you won’t be in bed listening to your stomach grumbling, whilst ensuring ensure your body isn’t up all night digesting.

As your body’s digestion reduces by 50% when you sleep it is important to try and avoid eating spicy, high salt or high fat foods before bed. These foods can cause uncomfortable indigestion and heartburn which will most likely disturb your sleep.

Instead opt for a snack rich in sleep-inducing nutrients like tryptophan, melatonin, protein and complex carbohydrates which will aid a better night’s sleep, maintain steady blood sugar levels and promote weight loss.

We’ve given you a run-down of our favourite healthy snacks before bed time below:

Turkey Slices

Turkey is loaded with sleep inducing tryptophan – an essential amino acid the brain uses to produce serotonin which regulates sleep. The body can’t make it itself, so foods high in tryptophan such as turkey must supply the body with tryptophan. A few slices of turkey will only be around 100 calories and will provide you with high quality protein to keep you full.

Cottage Cheese

Skip the sugar-packed icecream and instead opt for a bowl of cottage cheese topped with fresh blueberries. The slow digesting protein found in cottage cheese will keep you from getting hungry in the middle of the night while the calcium eases you to sleep.

Wholegrain Cereal

Whole wheat cereals, such as bran flakes or cornflakes are a good option for bedtime snacks. They are easy to digest and provide 200 calories or even less per bowl. You can add a little skimmed milk for protein and sleep inducing tryptophan.

Cherries

Cherries increase the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that naturally makes you feel sleepy. It seems that the more tart the cherry, the more helpful it is in increasing melatonin production. If snacking on sour cherries seems unappetising, you could opt for a glass or two of cherry juice instead.

70% Organic Dark Chocolate

If you really need to satisfy your late night sweet tooth then opt for 5 squares of 70% organic dark chocolate. This will provide a dose of antioxidants which can help lower your blood pressure and improve your blood vessel function.

Non-fat Greek Yoghurt

For about 100 to 150 calories, the protein from a portion of non-fat greek yoghurt will help keep you full, plus you’ll get the relaxing powers of tryptophan from the dairy. Yoghurt can also help calm your stomach, so you’re less likely to wake up with heartburn or indigestion and instead can score a good night’s rest.

A Banana

Bananas are packed with two powerhouse nutrients; potassium and magnesium. In addition to many other health benefits, these nutrients help relax your muscles, resulting in a restful night. For around 100 calories bananas are a great night time snack as they release energy slowly so blood sugar levels are kept steady to help aid an undisturbed sleep.

Almonds

Certain nuts such as almonds, walnuts and Brazil nuts are a great source of tryptophan. Almonds are especially rich in the minerals needed for good quality sleep. Lisa Artis of The Sleep Council describes almonds as a winner because they change the body from being alert and let it go into rest mode.

Popcorn

At only 30 calories a cup, air-popped popcorn is an ideal late night snack. The carbs in popcorn stimulate the release of insulin, which has proven to control your circadian clock.

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Healthy Breakfast: Eggs with Pesto and Avocado

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Our Healthy Sleep Supporter and GB heptathlete, Katarina Johnson-Thompson enjoys a healthy breakfast after her 10 hours of sleep.

Try our recipe inspired by Katarina to kick-start your day:

Eggs with Pesto, Avocado and Spinach

INGREDIENTS
• 2 eggs
• 1 tablespoon basil pesto
• Black pepper and a pinch of salt
• Olive oil spray
• 1/2 large avocado
• 2 slices seeded toast
• Cherry tomatoes to serve

1
Remove the stone from the avocado and chop into small chunks. Drizzle across the pesto and gently mix through the avocado.

2
Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and spray lightly with olive oil. Fry the eggs sunny side up for a tasty, runny yolk.

3
Spoon the avocado mixture onto the fresh toast, and add the eggs fresh from the pan.

4
Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper and serve with juicy cherry tomatoes.

5
Enjoy your healthy treat!

Dry-January-Mocktails

Dry January Mocktails

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Many people are taking part in dry January this year, whether it’s to lose a few pounds, save a few pennies, or just feel better within themselves. But how many of you have considered how alcohol impacts your sleep too? By disrupting your sleep routine, alcohol leaves you feeling groggy in the morning instead of well-rested. To help you keep to your resolution, or even if you just fancy a tasty alternative to alcohol, we’ve got some tempting ‘mocktail’ recipes for you to try. As well as being a healthier alternative to alcohol (and delicious too!), they also won’t effect your night’s sleep, leaving you feeling much happier in the morning.

Apple & Elderflower Spritz

A simple, light drink with a refreshing touch.

You’ll need:

  • 75ml elderflower cordial
  • 1l cloudy apple juice
  • Small handful of chopped mint leaves
  • Bottle sparkling water

Method:

  1. Firstly, mix the elderflower cordial with cloudy apple juice.
  2. Add the chopped mint leaves, stir well, then pour into a chilled flask.
  3. Pour half glasses of this mixture and top up with sparkling water.
  4. Add crushed ice and enjoy!

 

Fruity Mojito Twist

A fruity showstopper for parties, a non-alcoholic twist on the classic.

You’ll need:

  • 3 tbsp pomegranate seeds
  • big bunch mint
  • 2 lime, quartered, plus slices to garnish
  • 1l pomegranate juice
  • 500ml lemonade

Method:

  1. The day before your party/event, divide the pomegranate seeds into an ice cube tray, top up with water and freeze.
  2. Take half of the mint and tear into small pieces – put these into the jug with your the lime quarters. Using a rolling pin or wooden spoon, crush the mint and lime to release the flavours.
  3. Add the pomegranate juice and lemonade to the jug.
  4. Put the pre-made ice cubes in each glass then, using a small sieve, strain over the pomegranate mix.
  5. Garnish with lime slices and sprigs of mint.

 

Home-made Limeade

This ones not really a mocktail, but it’s a nice, simple recipe for a tasty treat.

  • 12 limes, 10 chopped, 2 sliced
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1l soda water

Method:

  1. Lay the lime slices on a tray and freeze for at least an hour.
  2. Put the remaining 10 chopped limes into a food processor or blender along with the sugar and 100ml water. Blend until smooth.
  3. Pour the mix through a sieve and have a taste of the juice – if it’s too sour you can always add a bit more sugar. You can also make this part 2 days ahead of your event and chill in the fridge.
  4. Pour into a big jug with crushed ice and the frozen lime slices, and top up with chilled soda water.