Recipe: wild salmon fishcakes

The beneficial effects of omega 3 essential fats are now widely acknowledged, but many of use still struggle to include foods rich in omega 3 in our diets. Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and trout are some of the richest sources. There are also vegetarian sources like flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts, although omega 3 is actually a family of fats and the type included in vegetarian sources is slightly different and requires the body to convert it to be used.

Salmon is the oily fish I find most palatable and easy to include in my diet, but over recent years some research has shown that farmed salmon can be high in environmental toxins such as PCBs and require treatment with antibiotics and pesticides to control lice infestations that have an impact on the levels in food and on the environment (there’s an interesting article about it here). So wild salmon is regarded by some as the best option, although it is significantly more expensive, has a different texture and requires shorter cooking times.

Tinned wild salmon is a slightly more economical option and widely available supermarkets. You can mix it with mayo and use as a sandwich filling, or even add it to pasta sauces, but my favourite way to have it is in fishcakes. The recipe below is gluten and dairy free and naturally low carb. Most importantly, it’s really tasty!

wildsalmonfishcakes

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

213g tin wild salmon

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

1 egg, beaten

1 heaped tbsp ground almonds

1 tbsp mayonnaise

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp finely chopped dill, or to taste

1 tbsp finely chopped parsley, or to taste

a generous grind of black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C fan. Remove the large bones and skin from the salmon – most easily done by placing on a plate and using two forks to pick through.
  2. Place the salmon in a large bowl and add the other ingredients. Mix well. If the mixtures looks too wet, add some more ground almonds.
  3. Shape the mixture into 8 to 9 cakes and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  4. Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes (until golden brown).
  5. Serve hot or cold with vegetables of your choice, a wedge of lemon, and some mayonnaise or horseradish sauce.

What’s your favourite way to eat wild salmon?

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June Favourites

Today I’m sharing some of my favourite things I’ve been enjoying this month.

junefavourites

  1. Face Theory organic bamboo face cloths – a few weeks ago my skin became super sensitive, I think in reaction to a new cleanser I tried. I quickly swapped to some really gentle products, but found my usual flannels and muslin cloths were just a bit too much for my skin. I spent a few days splashing off my cleansers with water until finding these bamboo face cloths from Face Theory on Amazon. They are so soft and gentle, my skin is now a lot happier.
  2. Pea shoots – I love the delicate flavour of pea shoots, even though I’d never seen them until a few years ago. They are lovely as part of a salad, but I’ve also been enjoying them alongside eggs at breakfast. I sometimes find other greens like spinach are a bit much for my digestion in the morning, but these seem easier on my system and a good way to include some more veg at breakfast.
  3. Madeleine Shaw on YouTube – I’ve been catching up with health coach Madeleine Shaw’s videos on YouTube this month. I find them so relaxing to watch, and I really appreciate how positive she is in her outlook.
  4. Yogi Rose Tea – my absolute favourite herbal tea at the moment. It has a lovely delicate floral taste from the rose, with some subtle warm spices.
  5. Decleor Aromessence Neroli Hydrating Night Balm – this is such a beautiful calming face balm, and a little goes a long way. Neroli is just one of the essential oils included in this delicious blend, alongside chamomile and basil. I find it really good when my skin is out of sorts, whether a bit dehydrated or threatening a breakout.

 

What products are you loving at the moment?

 

Recipe: raspberry smoothie

Usually I tend to have eggs for breakfast, but for days when I just don’t fancy them I’ve come up with this raspberry smoothie. Generally I find smoothies are too high in sugar and not very filling, but this one includes lots of ingredients rich in fibre, protein and healthy fats to keep you full. Raspberries are relatively low in sugar, and provide a range of antioxidants such as ellagic acid alongside fibre (source).

I like using frozen raspberries as it somehow seems a shame to blend up fresh ones. This recipe would also work with blueberries or mixed berries.

raspberrysmoothie

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • handful of frozen raspberries
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds or ground flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp hemp seeds
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • xylitol (or sweetener of choice) – 1 tsp or to taste
  • 150-200ml almond or coconut milk

Method

Add everything to a Nutribullet or blender and blitz until smooth. Taste and add more sweetener if needed.

My 5 favourite tips from Look Good, Feel Better

A couple of weeks ago I attended a Look Good, Feel Better workshop held at the hospital where I go for treatment. Look Good, Feel Better is an international cancer support charity that offers free workshops throughout the UK and in countries around the world. They aim to support peoples’ confidence and offer tips and advice on coping with issues such as skin changes, eyebrow and eyelash loss. You also get a bag of free products to use during the workshop and take home, donated by various companies in the beauty industry.

The workshop I went to was run by a fantastic make-up artist called Brian, along with a team of local make-up artists and beauty therapists who volunteered their time to help run the session. It was such a relaxed and positive atmosphere, so if you’re thinking about going to one yourself I would say go for it.

Some of the most useful tips for me were:

  1. Be generous with skincare products to avoid dragging the skin when it’s sensitive.
  2. Hydration, hydration, hydration – your skin can get really dehydrated during treatment, so use products that will hydrate the skin. (Beauty journalist Sali Hughes has a great video explaining skin dehydration here. Although personally I prefer to use more ‘natural’ products than some she recommends, I find her tip to look for products containing the hydrating ingredients hyaluronic acid and/or glycerin really useful).
  3. Avoid using products too near the eyes, especially if you’ve lost your eyelashes (they help keep things out of your eyes!). Eye cream goes on the orbital bone, not right under the eyes – it will naturally move up a bit to where it’s needed once you apply it. Tap in gently using the ring fingers, then press your fingers either side of the nose and gentle swipe outwards to help encourage fluid drainage and reduce puffiness.
  4. Eyeliner can help define the eyes if you’ve lost your eyelashes, but don’t put eyeliner in the water line during treatment to minimise infection risk.
  5. Eyebrows – they guide you through drawing them on in the session, using three points on the brow bone. One of the other attendees also mentioned you can get templates from Amazon and Boots to help guide you with shape. I received a Lancome Sourcils Tint eyebrow pen in my goodie bag which has been great as once it sets it doesn’t rub off, but unfortunately it seems they don’t make them any more.

And one more bonus tip: although I’ve not experienced ‘peach fuzz’ on the face due to treatment, Brian advised using a sponge to dab powder on the face rather than a brush to avoid highlighting the hairs. Good to know!

To find out more about Look Good, Feel Better, watch make-up tutorials, and see if there’s a workshop near you check out their website here.

 

Eating Well Part 3: helpful books

There are so many books available now about cancer, but quite frankly I don’t want to spend my time reading about it. I had a moment a few months ago when I wondered whether I had been missing out by avoiding them, and so ordered a whole stack online. Most of them were returned or sent to the charity shop.

The two books that stayed are actually cookbooks, but ones that offer quite a bit of background nutritional information. There are only a couple of recipes in each that appeal to me and suit how I’m eating right now, but obviously tastes differ, and I think they are worth a look as it’s easy to dip in and out of them without getting bogged down in unnecessary detail too. Both incorporate what I would consider a more ‘complementary’ nutritional therapy-type perspective in a way that is still accessible and I would hope wouldn’t completely freak out a dietitian.

cookbooks1

The first is called Nourish by Christine Bailey. Christine is an experienced nutritional therapist who also does a lot of work in healthy recipe development, and she’s produced this book in conjunction with the Penny Brohn Cancer Centre in Bristol. The nutrition section in this book is fairly concise, but I think it makes a nice starting point.

The second is The Living Well With Cancer Cookbook by Fran Warde & Catherine Zabilowicz, produced in conjunction with the cancer charity Maggie’s. This goes into a bit more detail and had some snippets I hadn’t come across. I found this a really informative and somehow reassuring read. I also liked the way it acknowledged that there are some more ‘out there’ approaches, but that these may have their downsides or require specialist support.

What books have you found useful?

Eating Well Part 2: finding a nutritional therapist

Nutrition has become a really important part of supporting myself through treatment, as it makes sense to me to provide my body with the best raw materials possible to carry out its repair processes. As I qualified as a nutritional therapist a few years ago I was already familiar with this approach to nutrition, but I realise most people will be more familiar with dietitians (who do a really important job, but within a medical framework). There is a useful summary of the differences between nutritional therapy and dietetics here if you are interested.

Supporting people with cancer was only covered lightly in my training, so I sought out someone with specialist knowledge to support me with an individually tailored programme. I really didn’t feel it would be a good use of my energy or all that healthy for me emotionally to suddenly try to research everything for myself from scratch.

I am fortunate to have found a nutritional therapist who is extremely experienced and knowledgeable. It was really important to me that any advice was research-based, and in particular that any supplements I take are safe and won’t interfere with my medical treatment.

If you are interested in finding someone to support you, I would say looking for a practitioner with experience of supporting people with cancer (ideally the type of cancer you have) is important.

How to find a nutritional therapist

There is a searchable database of qualified nutritional therapists on the website of the professional body BANT. All BANT members have completed a recognised qualification and have to keep up-to-date by completing a specified number of hours of additional training each year. Whilst the website shows you practitioners in your area, it doesn’t necessarily show the areas they specialise in.

Nutritionist Resource offers a bit more information, but to be honest nutritional therapists who specialise in supporting people with cancer can be few and far between. I would research people in your area and e-mail them to ask what their experience is.

When it comes to supplements, don’t be scared to really grill people on the evidence their recommendations are based on. Although I personally think specific supplements can be really helpful, you are much better off not taking any than risking taking something that will reduce the efffectiveness of your treatment (which is possible!) or may interact with your medications and worsen side effects. Food should be the primary focus.

Obviously it’s not possible for everyone to see a nutritional therapist, whether due to geography or finances, so coming up in the next post are a couple of books that I’ve found helpful in giving a really sensible, balanced overview of nutrition for supporting yourself during and after treatment.

Eating Well Part 1: the challenges

Nutrition can be a bit of a minefield these days, whether you are coping with an illness or not, but possibly even more so when it comes to supporting yourself during cancer treatment. On the one hand, the official advice seems to boil down to follow a standard healthy diet, and possibly add high calorie foods if you are struggling to maintain your weight during treatment. On the other, you have people from various camps recommending going vegan, or ketogenic, or green juicing six times a day. Even as someone with a professional background in nutrition (but no specialised knowledge or experience of supporting people with cancer), I find it can be a source of great anxiety and can only imagine how confused someone with standard nutritional knowledge might feel.

My personal philosophy about nutrition in general is there is no one perfect diet that is suitable for everyone. Whether it be due to physical factors such as variations in our genetic make-up, composition of our gut bacteria, or the way our immune system is programmed, or other equally important considerations such as personal preferences and cultural beliefs, different things suit different people. In a way this can be very empowering, but it also often means a lot of experimentation to find what suits you.

Working out what to eat during cancer treatment adds a further layer of complication, as so many aspects can affect digestion and appetite. Whether it be the side effects of chemo, the drugs that go alongside it, antibiotics, or a physical obstruction to your digestive system, your normal eating habits may go completely out the window.

I also think it’s really important to consider the psychological and emotional aspects of changing your diet. While there may be benefits to adding or removing certain foods in theory, if you struggle or find things overly restrictive you can end up creating stress and anxiety that outweighs the benefit of the changes. So my philosophy is ‘be kind to yourself’. If you decide to make a change, do it gradually, make sure you have enough alternatives that you know you can eat on hand before removing anything, and don’t beat yourself up if the only food you can face eating one day is completely the opposite of what you’re aiming for.

Coming up next time – finding individualised nutritional support.