Top 10 tips to boost brain function and this week’s meal plan

top ten tips to boost brain function



Hello Everybody,

I hope you have had a good week and are enjoying the long weekend.

If you are living in a house with teenagers in the UK, I expect you are probably half way through the important GCSE, AS and A level exam period.

I hope you’re not experiencing too many dramas with your teenagers – unlike my 17 year old who decided doing a bit of skateboarding between revising was a good idea.  Five hours at A & E later and we have a fractured elbow joint to contend with.  Thankfully, it’s his left arm and he’s right handed.

If your teens are hitting a bit of slump though, here’s my Top Ten tips to boost brain function – hopefully 5 & 6 won’t apply to our teens too much!


Top 10 tips to boost brain function during exam season:


  1. Hydrate – Drinking a glass of water before an exam can improve cognitive ability by 15%.  Aim for 6-8 glasses of fluid per day, more if exercising hard or if the weather is particularly hot.
  2. Eat healthy Omega 3 fats – oily wild fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies, nuts and seeds such as walnuts, cashews, brazil nuts, flax and chai seeds, green leafy vegetables, avocadoes and extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Carbs – eating complex carbohydrates through the day helps to keep blood glucose levels stable, thereby keeping energy flowing to the brain.  Suitable carbs would be wholegrain breakfast cereals and breads, brown rice, pulses and beans.
  4. Exercise – physical activity that raises the heart beat for approximately 30 minutes per day is ideal.
  5. Don’t smoke – smoking has a negative impact on blood vessels to the brain, as well as damaging the heart and lungs.
  6. Only drink alcohol in  moderation.  Teens shouldn’t really drink at all as it impacts developing brains.
  7. Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables.  Not only do these provide high levels of nutrients and vitamins, they are also a form of slow release carbs (see 3 above).
  8. Keep caffeine and sugar intake to a minimum – this includes energy drinks and coca-cola.
  9. Get plenty of sleep.  Lack of sleep has a profound impact on memory and cognitive function.  Any sleep deprived mother can confirm this!
  10. Rosemary – sniffing a handful of the herb rosemary or sniffing a few drops of essential rosemary oil on a tissue prior to an exam can help memory recall by up to 75% according to research by Northumbia University, Newcastle.

These top tips have also  been shown to help prevent the onset of dementia and Alzheimers in older brains, so it’s a good list for us parents to adopt too!

Wishing all your teenagers every success in their exams.

This week’s meal plan:-

  • Sausage stroganoff
  • Coconut chilli chicken and salad
  • Chicken with a white wine and mustard sauce, new potatoes and vegetables
  • Salmon with chilli lime noodle salad
  • Cottage pie
  • Pork and spicy plum stir fry and rice
  • Quiche and salad

I hope you all have a fantastic week and for those of you on half term, lets hope the weather is good!

Don’t forget to check out my Facebook page here or you can link up with me on Instagram here.

You can also keep up to date by subscribing to our Newsletter here

Signature from Janine x

A review of Hot Pod Yoga and this week’s meal plan



Hello Everybody,

I hope you’ve had a super week.

A review of Hot Pod Yoga

*Please note this is a completely independent review and is based on my own opinions*

I was really excited when I spotted the social media announcement that Hot Pod Yoga was coming to our town.  The description of yoga in a blow up pod, with an internal temperature of 37°C was very enticing to my stiff and creaky joints.

I duly booked my free opening session and counted down the days eagerly to the opening.

I hadn’t expected much from the exterior of the venue as I knew it was a unit on an industrial estate.  However, on arrival it did look rather sadder than I had imagined.  The signage was very unwelcoming for an opening weekend – a bit of bunting or some Himalayan flags wouldn’t have gone amiss!

outside view of hot pod yoga site

Inside was a typical small warehouse unit.  There was a table offering drinks and fruit but I felt it had a rather ‘Youth Club’ feel to it.  Lockers and shoe racks lined the walls for personal items.  We were assured the unit was locked once we entered the pod.  hot pod yoga external view

On entering the pod, the first sensory element to hit was the lack of light.  It was rather dark which made it hard to find a mat.  Your eyes do adjust after a while and there were a couple of low light emitting lamps in two corners of the pod.  To be honest, I thought the issue with the light levels may just have been due to my ‘old’ eyes but other younger attendees were stumbling around too.  I did feel I was the oldest person there, which may be a good thing or a bad thing?

Anyhow, our olfactory senses were given a treat from a diffuser giving off a pleasant lavender whiff.

inside view of the yoga pod

Now, I don’t want to sound like a wimp but not knowing what to expect, I did have a little moment of panic whilst waiting for everyone to arrive.  The pod isn’t massive and gets zipped up so it can feel a little claustrophobic.  Mix this in with a 37°C heat, diffusers and semi-darkness and I did have a little wobble as to whether I would be OK.  Thankfully, once we started the yoga there was no time to think about this stuff so I was fine.

Now, to the yoga.  The instructor began the session by asking how many hadn’t done yoga before – over half the class.  She then proceeded to jump straight into her routine.  She remembered to ask half way through whether anyone had any injuries but from what I could see she didn’t seem to engage with those who said they had.  In my opinion there was very little instruction on how to do each pose and I was astonished when, towards the end, we were all encouraged to do headstands.

The other issue with the yoga part was that the mats were very close together so it was impossible to stretch out sideways without poking your neighbour.  Likewise, standing at the edge of the pod meant having a sloping ceiling/side, which restricted my ability to reach up above my head.  Personally, I didn’t find the music particularly relaxing either, but again that could just be my age!

My overall review:


  • I loved the heat
  • I loved the dynamic movement of the yoga
  • it provided a good workout, with lots of deep stretches
  • there’s no ‘woo, woo’ bits which I know can put some people off yoga
  • it would probably suit a younger client than me!


  • I didn’t like the enclosed space, but some folks who are used to a gym probably won’t be concerned by this.
  • I don’t think it would be suitable if you suffer from claustrophobia
  • I felt the instruction wasn’t in-depth enough, especially for beginners
  • there was no feeling of mindfulness to the yoga practice

Now I want to make it clear, that whilst I didn’t feel Hot Pod Yoga was for me, it may well be an exact fit for you.  I would always recommend giving something a go if you think it’s safe for you to do so.

Exercise, like healthy eating has to fit the individual.  There is so much information available these days on what we should be doing but it’s really important to listen to your body and your mindset and find methods that work for you as an individual.  Society is programmed on a ‘one size fits all’ mentality, especially when it comes to food and exercise.  Making healthy changes to our diet won’t work if it doesn’t fit into our lifestyle or we just plain don’t like the food recommended.

For example, I know chai seeds are on trend and super good for us,  but I really don’t like them!  Trying to force myself to eat them, would just make me disgruntled and unhappy.  Instead, I opt for pumpkin seeds, pine nuts and nuts.  I’ve still made some healthy changes to my diet, but on a level I’m happy with.  This means I’m far likelier to stay committed to it.  Making manageable changes to your diet will have greater, long term benefits than jumping on a diet trend that doesn’t work for you as an individual.

My overall message – Always try new things (exercise, foods etc) and then see if they will adapt to you and your lifestyle so that you can be consistent with those changes.

This week’s meal plan:-

  • Moroccan chicken with mango and chickpea salsa and new potatoes
  • Pork Satay stir fry with rice
  • Duck breast with a creamy mushroom sauce, jacket potatoes and salad
  • Thai green chicken curry and rice
  • Homemade burgers/tuna burgers with salad
  • Seafood linguine

Wishing you all a lovely week with lots of sunshine!.

Don’t forget you can sign up for our free New Leaf Newsletter.

You can also let me know on our Facebook Page whether you have tried Hot Pod Yoga and what you thought of it.


Signature from Janine x


Why planet Earth is fighting an infinity food war and this week’s meal plan



Hello Everybody,

Why planet Earth is fighting an infinity food war

At the weekend my 12 year old son wanted to go and watch the new Avengers Movie – Infinity War.  I drew the short straw to go  along as his adult supervision (it’s a 12A).   I’m not really a Marvel/DC fan so it was a long three hours of my life!

“Spoiler Alert”

If you don’t want me to spoil the story line for Avengers Infinity War or Dan Brown’s Inferno then please skip the next paragraph.


why planet earth is fighting an infinity food war

The basic outline of the story in the Avengers movie is that Thanos, the ‘badie’ thinks the only way to stop suffering and poverty in the universe is to randomly sacrifice half the population, so that the survivors will have a better life.  He sets off on a quest to collect five magical crystals to give him the ultimate power to achieve his ends.  Likewise in Dan Brown’s Inferno, the ‘badie’ devises a virus to randomly kill off half the population to achieve the same outcome.


It’s safe to read this bit!

If you start looking at the health statistics for the human population it’s hard not to feel we are already fighting an infinity war.  Rates for obesity, Type II Diabetes, Alzheimers/Dementia and heart disease are all escalating at frightening levels.  Increasingly, the root cause of these epidemics is linked to our food and lifestyle choices.

1. Alzheimers/Dementia

“1 in 3 people born in the UK this year will develop dementia in their lifetime”

“The number of people expected to die from dementia is due to quadruple by 2040, from 59,199 in 2014 to 219,409”

Alzheimers and other dementias are now the leading cause of death in the UK.  It’s the leading cause of death in women and the second cause of death in men.

With an aging population, living longer does play a part in the higher levels of dementia and alzheimers but increasingly scientific research is  discovering  links between some forms of dementia and alzheimers to the food and lifestyles we live.



2. Heart disease or Cardiovascular disease (CVD)

“160,000 deaths per year in the UK due to heart disease/CVD”

“24% or 141,000 deaths in the UK could be prevented – Office for National Statistics”


This is the UK’s second biggest killer after dementia.  It’s a disease that kills more than 1 in 4 people in the UK.  Some forms of heart disease are congenital or genetic, but again many forms are directly linked to  lifestyle choices.

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease are high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes. The lifestyle factors that contribute to CVD are smoking, being overweight or obese and being inactive.  A recent Harvard Medical School study goes one step further and says that giving up meat could save up to 200,000 lives.


3. Obesity

“over ¼ of adults in the UK are obese and more than 62% are classified overweight”

“Rates of obesity have more than tripled in the UK in the last 30 years”

“24% of UK men and 26% of UK women are obese, placing us at the second highest rate in the world”


Obesity increases rates of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer and diabetes.  People with a BMI of 30-35 have a reduced life expectancy of 3 years, and people with a BMI over 40,  decrease their life expectancy by 10 years.

Obesity claims over 30,000 deaths a year with 9,000 of those deaths in people before retirement age.

The best ways to prevent obesity is to get more exercise and make changes to our diet.   2 out of 5 adults do not achieve the recommended levels of physical activity and only ¼ of adults and 1 in 6 children in England and Scotland consume the recommended minimum 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per days.

In addition, around ¼ adults in the UK exceed the National guideline for weekly alcohol intake.

4. Type II Diabetes

“Currently 1 in 16 people has diabetes”

“the number of people with Type II diabetes in the UK has trebled over the last 20 years”


More people than ever have type II diabetes and more people than ever are at risk of developing Type II diabetes.  If the current rates don’t change it is estimated that more than 5 million people will have diabetes in the UK by 2025.

90% of the cases of diabetes are Type II diabetes which is linked to lifestyle choices.



All of these conditions can bring about the randomised death of our friends and families in just the same way as the storylines in popular disaster movies.

Human beings need to wake up to the fact that our health is being attacked every day by the choices we make.

It’s said the average adult makes up to 200 food choices per day.  Many of these choices are influenced by industrial food producers who have an arsenal of weapons to make us pick their foods – intensive marketing and  products designed to trick our brains into craving them and becoming addicted to them.

Whilst some may argue that the Government should step in and control the food industry more, the basic fact is that if we want to protect ourselves and our families we need to do much more to educate ourselves to make better choices.   If you were a character fighting in a disaster movie, you would find out as much as you could about your enemy right?  You would also want to find out your enemies’ weaknesses.  With the food industry it’s their profits – stop buying the over processed foods, then they will have to change.

However, I fully realise how over whelming the whole healthy eating movement can be and I also believe it’s impossible to jump straight into being super healthy.  We have to train our bodies and minds to accept new habits and routines and this takes time.   I know I have a long way to go – there is still far too much sugar in our house!

My recommendations to anyone wanting to make changes in their lifestyle choices: –

  1. Start with one area at a time.  Maybe begin by changing the drinks you consume or the snacks you eat every day.
  2. Try to start eating more fruit and vegetables each day.
  3. Try to start moving more each day.  This doesn’t have to be “exercise” in a gym, but just walking more, stretching, taking the stairs instead of the lift/escalator, playing with the kids.
  4. If you smoke, try to give up and also watch your alcohol intake.

In our modern world battling the demons of sugar, fat, processed foods and over eating is really tough.  Just remember you don’t need to be perfect but just start making consistent changes and try to get the whole family on board with you. Together we can beat the infinity food war!

This week’s meal plan:-

  • Thai green curry and coconut chicken fillets with salad
  • Penne and meatballs
  • Ravioli Boscaiola
  • Spicy sausages, warm potato salad and salad
  • Salt and pepper pork, rice and Asian greens
  • Turkey lasagne
  • Creamy salmon pasta


I hope you all have a wonderful week.

Let me know in the comments or on the New Leaf Facebook page whether you feel under attack by food and the food industry.

Also don’t forget you can sign up for the New Leaf Newsletter to receive regular updates from our blog.


Signature from Janine x

This week’s meal plan and 6 reasons why cooking at home is good for you

this week's meal plan


Hello Everybody,

I hope you’ve had a wonderful week and enjoyed some of the lovely sunshine that decided to show up!

Life just seems to get busier and busier and I know that for some families cooking at home almost seems impossible.  Research indicates that families from industrialised countries are increasingly eating out more than 4.5 times per week.  Obviously, this has huge implications on family budgets but eating out also plays havoc with family health.

6 Reasons why cooking at home is good for you

  1. Research shows that if you cook at home up to five times per week you can increase your chance of being alive in 10 years by 47%.
  2. Children who eat home cooked meals are less likely to be overweight, do better at school, have better relationships with friends and family and are less likely to drink, smoke or do drugs.  They also consume more fruit and vegetables.
  3. You know precisely what ingredients are in your food and you should save money.
  4. You can include your family in the planning, preparing and cooking process, helping to build family bonds and the social interaction of sharing a meal together.
  5. Eating breakfast at home will help control your calorie intake and provide a nutritious start to your day.  Include foods like eggs, fruit, yoghurt, overnight oats and wholegrain toast.
  6. Families who cook at home usually consume less fat, sugar and carbohydrates and therefore less calories.

The other important factor to 10x the benefits of home cooked food is to eat together as a family, at the table with no gadgets or TV.  Sharing a meal is an important time to interact, share your day and catch up.  It’s a very simple habit which can have profound affects on the health of the whole family.

Research has shown that Dutch children are the happiest in the world.  The reason – they regularly eat breakfast together as a family.   Even though one of the staples of a Dutch child’s breakfast is ‘hagelslag’ (chocolate sprinkles), they  still have the lowest rates of child obesity of all 29 industrialised countries surveyed by UNICEF.

Taking time to eat as a family is one of the best things you can do for your children.  So, sit down together and plan some meals to cook and share this week.

This week’s meal plan:-

  • Paprika pork steaks, sweet potatoes and salad
  • Turkey pastitsio (pasta bake)
  • Salmon with creamy leek and dill sauce, new potatoes and steamed vegetables
  • Sweet and sour chicken with rice
  • Asian style turkey rissoles, coconut fried rice and salad
  • Sausages with satay sauce and salad
  • Spicy baked chicken and salad


I hope you all have a wonderful week.  Don’t forget to join the New Leaf Newsletter for regular updates, tips and recipes.


Signature from Janine x

This week’s meal plan and how to reduce a bloated Winter stomach

this week's meal plan



Hello Everybody,

How to reduce a bloated Winter stomach

Now Spring is officially  here (even if the weather hasn’t realised it yet), I’m sure like me your thoughts are turning to summer holidays and the inevitable reduction in clothing!  If you are worried your stomach is looking a little bloated after a Winter of warming comfort foods, then I would recommended giving your insides a Spring boost.

As you are probably already aware, your gut and your overall health, relies heavily on your gut microbiome.  To give these friendly bugs a boost you need to get lots of probiotic and prebiotic foods into your diet.  Probiotic bacteria reside in your gut in millions.  However, these friendly bugs can  be wiped out by antibiotics, steroids, the contraceptive pill, HRT, stress, high sugar consumption and alcohol.  So, it’s important to keep adding probiotic bacteria back into your system.  You also need to feed these bugs.  This is where prebiotic foods come in. These are foods that have non-digestible parts (fibre) that help to grow your friendly gut bugs.

Here’s some of my top tips to boost your gut:-

1. Greek Natural Yogurt

Natural yogurt is a great source of protein, natural complex carbs and probiotic bacteria.  Don’t go for supermarket flavoured yogurts as these are usually full of added sugar.  I have two tablespoons of Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and pumpkin seeds most mornings.

You can also use Greek yogurt for making marinades, salad dressings and for adding to sauces like stroganoff instead of cream.

2. Kefir

If you prefer a smoothie in the morning, then you could add some kefir.  This is a fermented milk product but it has a very low lactose content so is more suitable for those who are dairy intolerant or for the elderly or young as it’s easier to digest.  Chuckling Goat ( make their kefir from goats milk which is a good alternative.  I found kefir OK but I prefer my yogurt and fruit choice.

3. Kombuchakombucha

This is a light, refreshing, slightly sparkling drink made from fermented tea.  I really enjoyed this brand from Holland and Barratt but I’m sure there are lots of alternatives available. It’s a great alternative to sugary, fizzy drinks and will ease bloating instead of increasing it.

4. Sourdough

If, like me, you love a bit of toast and marmalade or some mashed avocado and poached egg on toast then sourdough makes a really gut friendly choice. The fermented cultures used to make sourdough aid your gut microbiome, so you can eat bread without feeling guilty.  Try to find a local bakery who make it fresh, rather than supermarket varieties which may have additives.

5. Dark Chocolate

Yum! – yes, you can have chocolate and help your gut at the same time. Dark chocolate contains lots of antioxidants and fibres that feed your gut bacteria.  Some chocolate brands even add probiotics into the chocolate for a gut super boost.

6. Prebiotic foods

Most vegetables contain fibre which helps to feed your gut microbiome but the veg that work particularly well are garlic, asparagus, leeks and onions. Try to add these beauties to as many of your meals as possible.

So, start nurturing those friendly gut bacteria to ease any Winter bloating and get ready for Summer!.

This week’s meal plan:-

  • Mushroom Wellington and salad
  • Grilled tuna with spicy sweetcorn salsa and new potatoes
  • Crumbed chicken and Caesar salad
  • Pasta Bolognese
  • Lamb kofta meatballs in tomato sauce with rice
  • Enchiladas and salad
  • Chicken pie, mashed potatoes and vegetables


I hope you all have a wonderful week and we get some Spring weather soon!

Don’t forget you can sign up for the New Leaf Newsletter to receive regular updates, recipes and offers.


Signature from Janine x