Nutrition: Salad Days

After the spells of grey skies, rain and below average temperatures, Birmingham welcomes the long-awaited summer sunshine and warmth when it arrives. People often report not having much of an appetite when the sun is beating down on them, and that’s probably why salads are often synonymous with summer; they can be a healthy, light and refreshing alternative to a stodgy burger and fries or meaty BBQ.

I find salads to be a really versatile dish, whether it’s consumed as a side or a main meal, and when you consider the vast array of delicious foods on offer at our local food store or market, no two salads ever have to be the same. Here’s a few of my favourite homemade salads that I’ve been indulging in over the past couple of months.

I’m not a fan of rocket lettuce which is a very popular leaf to include in salads, so I’ve been using spinach as the base of most of my salads. It’s pretty tasteless so it allows the flavours of all the other ingredients to really come through.

Not everyone enjoys including fruit in their salad, but I say the more the better. I know it’s ‘trendy’ to eat avocado these days, but I genuinely love this fruit which is full of healthy fats and adds great texture to your salad.

Oily fish is full of omega 3 fats which are important for heart health and I’ve always enjoyed including salmon, especially smoked salmon in my salads but I recently happened on a recipe which suggested combining mackerel and satsuma/clementine segments - I’m so glad I tried it, it’s now one of my favourite salads!

My kitchen is full of cooking gadgets and my latest purchase is the spiralizer. It’s so much fun preparing salads with this and my favourite vegetable to spiralise is a courgette; I’ll lightly stir-fry it and include it in a salad

We’re often warned against salad dressings because of being calorie-laden, and in some cases their high sugar and high salt content can get in the way of our health efforts. A simple way to add flavour to a salad is the use of balsamic vinegar, with its sweet and tangy properties and only 14 calories per tablespoon. I however love combining balsamic vinegar with a good glug of extra-virgin olive oil for a simple, healthy dressing.

I could go on with different ideas for salads, from using whole-wheat pasta to pulses, but I’ll leave it there.

Words and photos by Colleen Campbell.

Colleen Campbell writes a lifestyle blog (http://forcailini.blogspot.com) and is a Registered Nutritionist and the owner of nutrition consultancy, NutriShion (www.nutrishion.co.uk).

You can connect with her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for more health and nutrition tips.

Colleen's 36 Hours in Birmingham

By Colleen Campbell I’ve lived in Birmingham all my life – bar a few years when I was studying in London - and love all that the city has to offer; it has some of the best shops and restaurants and is renowned for its great heritage, so here’s what I would do with 36 hours in the city. I’m a Registered Nutritionist and Personal Image Stylist, so most of my time would be spent shopping for fashion and eating good food!

36 hours Colleen Collage

I live about 20 minutes from the city centre, but have always liked the idea of living in a swanky contemporary city centre apartment, so I would rent a short stay Staying Cool apartment for the weekend in the uber-cool Rotunda.

On Friday, once I’d got my glad-rags on, the gals and I would go to the prestigious Mailbox, which houses a great selection of high end shops like Harvey Nichols and restaurants offering a variety of cuisine. I’d line my stomach with a glass of champagne from the chic Bar Epernay before taking a few steps next door to the Italian restaurant, Zizzi’s. With our bellies full we’d make our way to the Champagne Bar situated on the 25th floor of the imposing Cube building and enjoy stunning 360 degree views of the city.

It’s Saturday morning, so it’s time for a good breakfast at the Boston Tea Party café, which has a really relaxed feel about the place. The pancakes are delicious!

Right…….now it’s time for some shopping. It’s got to be the iconic Bullring – Top Shop, Zara, and Selfridges, here I come! After all that shopping I’m feeling peckish so it’s a trip to Browns’ for a late lunch; I order the tasty duck salad. This is also a great time for a photo opportunity outside the beautiful St Martins church. After lunch I take a 10 minute stroll to the Custard Factory to browse all the new indie boutiques.

I take my bags back to the apartment and get ready for dinner at Thai restaurant, The Thai Edge in Brindley Place - arguably the best Thai restaurant in Birmingham - before we cop a squat by the BrindleyPlace canal-side to do some people watching.

After Sunday breakfast, we head off to the recently refurbished Leisure Box to do some ice skating (or you could have a go at bowling if you value your limbs too much). It costs £9 to go skating, £7 if you have your own skates which I do. All that skating has got me ready for Sunday lunch, so off I trot to the brasserie-style Aalto restaurant in Hotel LA Tour.

I’d close the weekend with a pamper session – massage and facial – at the intimate and aptly named spa At One Day Spa. I was really surprised and pleased to hear that they were open on a Sunday; Sunday is my usual day of relaxation and this is the perfect little place to unwind after a busy weekend and in preparation for a busy week ahead.

Colleen Campbell runs a Nutrition and Personal Image Styling Consultancy and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Six Sizzling Barbecue Tips

By Colleen Campbell The long awaited summer is finally here, and one of the favourite things to do is take the garden furniture and barbecue set out of storage and enjoy the great outdoors with family and friends.

BBQ Collage

Barbecues are commonly misconceived as being unhealthy and calorific; well this doesn’t have to be the case. Barbecues offer a great opportunity for healthy eating so instead of thinking high fat sausages/burgers, take a look at some of these nutritious barbecue ideas that will leave you feeling smug that you have cooked a healthy barbecue meal.

  1. Opt for lean cuts of meat that are lower in fat. Chicken is also delicious cooked on the BBQ, and it has a lower fat content than beef burgers and sausages. You could cut some chicken breast fillets into cubes and put them on to skewers with vegetables to make to make a healthy BBQ kebab.
  2. Fish is a great alternative to meat, and is also a low fat option to cook on the BBQ. A good fillet of marinated salmon (using homemade marinade) cooked for 10 minutes is delicious and provides you with a good dose of those healthy omega 3 fats! 
  3. Salads are light, healthy and seemingly low calorie, but beware of the salad dressings which can be a calorie trap. Reduced fat/calorie dressings or balsamic vinegar and a squeeze of fresh lemon will prevent your calorie intake going through the roof.
  4.  You can’t have a BBQ meal without a dessert, right?  Instead of the ice cream, gateaux’s and cheesecake, why not choose a selection of your favourite fruit, chop them up and pop them on a skewer and warm them through on the BBQ, and then serve with some low fat yoghurt. Or you could just keep things simple and have a refreshing bowl of fresh fruit salad.
  5. I’m not a party-pooper, so I’m not going to suggest that you should abstain completely from alcohol, however I do recommend that you moderate your intake and use strategies that can help reduce your overall calorie intake, such as having mixers with diet drinks (e.g. gin and slim-line tonic or a wine spritzer), opting for single measures instead of double and drinking water in between drinks.
  6. I can’t talk about BBQ’s without mentioning the importance of removing badly burnt bits from your meat, poultry or fish. If you are anything like my father, who is burn prone, just be mindful that the charred spots are thought to be carcinogenic (increase cancer risk) but don’t fret, just simply cut them off before serving and enjoying. Marinating the food first can lower levels of the dangerous chemicals produced, and part cooking them in the oven or microwave prior to adding them to the barbecue will reduce cooking time and the risk of burning.

So, who do you nominate to stand over the glowing coals in the baking hot sunshine preparing all the yummy food?

Colleen Campbell is a Registered Nutritionist at www.forcailini-nutrition.co.uk  and can be found on Facebook