Ultimate Kimchi

Kimchi is a Korean staple, most often consisting of spicy, fermented cabbage. It’s a pre and probiotic, full of beneficial micro-organisms which are thought to be helpful in supporting our gut microbiome.

Home fermenting is relatively easy to do. You can buy specialist preserving equipment if you want, but really all you need (other than the raw ingredients, bowl, chopping board and knife) is a glass jar and some kind of weight to submerge the prepared vegetables in a brine. You can buy specific glass fermentation weights, or alternatively you can just use a robust plastic bag filled with brine (eg. a ziplock freezer bag which can be washed and reused).


  • 1 cabbage
  • Fine sea salt – 1/4 cup (approx 60g)
  • Chilli flakes – 1-2 teaspoons
  • Garlic – 4 cloves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger – grated
  • Seaweed flakes – 1 tsp (optional)
  • Maple syrup – 1 tsp
  • Sweet paprika – 1 tsp
  • 2 small carrots – grated
  • 1 bunch spring onions – chopped


  1. Wash the cabbage, remove the outer leaves and set these aside
  2. Chop the cabbage up into approximately 1-2cm slices and place in a large bowl
  3. Dissolve 1/4 cup of sea salt in 1000ml of cold water to make a brine
  4. Pour this over the cabbage and place a plate over the cabbage to make sure it stays submerged in the brine
  5. Allow to soak overnight or for approximately 6-8 hrs
  6. Drain the cabbage and reserve the brine
  7. Rinse the cabbage in cold water, pressing some of the liquid out
  8. Add the grated carrot and chopped spring onion to the bowl and mix with the cabbage
  9. Place the chilli flakes, garlic, ginger, paprika, seaweed and  maple syrup in a blender and blend together to a rough paste
  10. Add the paste to the cabbage mix and use your hands to combine thoroughly
  11. Now pack the mixture tightly into a clean preserving jar, leaving a few centimetres clear at the top of the jar
  12. Cover the mixture with one of the outer cabbage leaves and pour some of the reserved brine into the jar so that the contents are just covered in liquid
  13. Place a fermentation weight on top of the leaf to help ensure everything remains submerged in the brine. If you don’t have a fermentation weight, take an empty freezer bag, place it inside the jar on top of the mixture, open it and part fill it with some brine, until it fills the remaining space in the jar, then seal the bag
  14. Place a lid lightly on the jar (don’t screw it on tight) and leave in a cool place out of direct sunlight (put the jar on a plate or bowl in case of overflow)
  15. It’s normal to get carbon dioxide bubbles or a foam forming on top of the mixture
  16. After approximately 5 days, transfer the jar to the fridge
  17. The kimchi should taste pleasantly sour and its flavour should continue to develop over time
  18. However, if it’s mouldy, slimy or tastes bad, put it on the compost!

Vegan Mince Pies

Homemade mince pies are quick and easy to make, and a world apart from shop bought ones, which tend to be massively loaded with refined sugar.

I’ve given you four options to experiment with for the short crust pastry. Three vegan and one traditional, using different types of oil/ fat. They each give a slightly different texture and flavour.

The luxury mincemeat requires a bit of advance preparation to allow it to mature, however you could happily use it straight away, omitting the brandy and substituting with a grated apple and the juice of 1 orange. Alternatively, try the quick mincemeat recipe instead.

Makes approximately 12 mince pies



  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g coconut oil
  • 5 tablespoons rice milk (or any dairy free milk)


  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 110g dairy free spread
  • 1/2 cup rice milk


  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup rice milk

Or (non-vegan option):

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 125g organic butter
  • 5-6 tablespoons cold water

Luxury Mincemeat:

  • 450g mixed dried fruit (currants, raisins, sultanas)
  • 100g dried apricots
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 100ml brandy
  • grated zest of 1 orange

Quick Mincemeat:

  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup currants
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1 handful of dried apricots – chopped
  • 1 apple – grated
  • 1 orange – zest and juice
  • 1 lemon – zest and juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil


Luxury Mincemeat:

  1. Combine all the mincemeat ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly
  2. Cover and allow to stand in a cool place for 2 days. Stir occasionally.
  3. Pot into sterilised jars and store in a cool place. Allow to mature for a couple of weeks before using

Alternative quick mincemeat:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together
  2. Transfer to a saucepan, heat gently and simmer for 30 minutes

Pastry and pie preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC
  2. Combine the flour and oil/fat in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips until it becomes the consistency of breadcrumbs
  3. Add the milk/ water, stir and then mix with your hands until it becomes a smooth dough. You don’t need to knead!
  4. Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes
  5. Flour a work surface and roll out the dough thinly (4-5 mmm)
  6. Cut out 12 circles using a plain or fluted cookie cutter
  7. There should be enough pastry remaining to cut out 12 smaller shapes for the lids (stars, trees etc)
  8. Place the circle bases into a 12 hole tart tray
  9. Add 1 spoonful  of mincemeat to each; don’t overload otherwise the mincemeat bubbles and leaks over the edge whilst cooking, making the pies difficult to remove from the tray
  10. Place the stars/ tree lids on top of the mincemeat
  11. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 20-22 minutes until golden brown
  12. Remove, place on a wire rack and allow to cool for a few minutes before dusting the tops with icing sugar
  13. Merry Christmas!

The Lost Art of Natural Movement

Movement and fitness have become optional extras for modern humans.

Most of us now spend the majority of our lives sitting for prolonged periods – at our desks, in our cars, on our sofas.

This prolonged inactivity has been linked to an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and increased all cause mortality. See here and here for some further reading.

Such chronic positioning also has negative impacts on the musculoskeletal system: over time, our bodies adapt subtly to the chair shape, making us unsuited to other less frequently performed movements, and prone to back pain and injury.

Even for those of us who try and exercise regularly, we tend to engage in repetitive activities such as running, cycling or bodybuilding, which can lead to overuse injuries, chronic pain and immobility.

We have become either soft or overspecialized, and have lost the ability to move in the same way as our ancestors, whose very survival depended on their ability to run, throw, carry and fight.

But it wasn’t always this way: look at the way young children play and move. Adults can learn a lot from the way they get up and down off the floor; the way they roll and crawl and climb naturally. Children generally run without heel strike and can squat fully and easily.

At some point in our lives we stopped playing and started sitting, and lost the ability to perform many of these important natural movements: running, jumping, climbing, balancing, crawling, lifting, carrying, throwing and catching, swimming and wrestling.

If you want to see if this applies to you, have a go at some of these basic movement skills at home (I did and was unpleasantly surprised at my lack of mobility):

  • Can you move from standing to sitting on the floor and back up again? How easy is it? Can you get down and get up without using your hands?
  • Can you perform a deep squat, keeping your heels on the floor? Can you hold this position comfortably for 10 minutes?
  • Can you hold yourself in a dead hang from a pole or branch for 30 seconds or more?
  • Can you perform a single pull up from a dead hang? You can? That’s fantastic – how many can you do without kipping (kicking) for assistance?

But does it really matter if we’ve lost the ability to perform these primal movements? After all, we no longer need to hunt down our dinner or be able to outrun predators.

Proponents such as Erwan Le Corre, the developer of MovNat (a fitness system based on natural movements), believe so. He suggests that practicing these innate skills will not only make you a more well-rounded athlete and improve mobility, but also that it has practical application in our everyday lives. In its purest form it will help reconnect us with nature, by training outdoors using the natural environment as our gym when possible.

To illustrate, a beginner’s natural movement workout might look something like this:

3-5 cycles of:

  • Bear crawl 15m
  • Leg swing jump to a precision landing (x 8)
  • Deadlift (x 8) – preferably using a rock!
  • Running at fast speed over 30m
  • Balancing along a 3m long beam (x 8)

Advanced practitioners might progress to doing some of the following:

  • Muscle ups on a pull up bar or tree branch
  • Balancing farmers walk
  • Rope climbs
  • Log carrys

This functional approach to fitness is not new and was the mainstay of earlier versions of physical training in the 18th and early 19th Centuries, which emphasized gymnastic and calisthenic skills, such as the Methode Naturelle created by George Hebert.

What’s clear is that inactivity has become a major problem in our society and we urgently need to move more. But how often do we need to move? How intensively? What movements and exercises are best?

It may be possible to offset the effects of inactivity simply by doing more exercise. This study suggests that 60-75 minutes per day of moderate intensity activity may eliminate the increased mortality associated with sitting.

It’s likely that this is not a realistic option for most people who already struggle to do the recommended 30 minutes of exercise per day; we would perhaps be better off focusing on reducing our sitting time and finding ways to incorporate more movement into our daily routines, whilst still trying to fit in exercise when we can.

Could natural movement and functional fitness help address our inactivity and overspecialization?

The evidence base is limited here, but the idea of relearning natural movement skills makes sense, and the philosophy is appealing, with its focus on performing practical activities rather than repetitive, isolated movements, and a renewed connection to nature. There is certainly mounting evidence that contact with green spaces and natural environments is associated with benefits to mental and physical health.

Natural movement practice won’t appeal to everyone, but it does offer certain advantages: in the beginning it requires little or no equipment, no gym membership, it can be relatively time efficient and provides an interesting, holistic workout, combining both strength and aerobic conditioning.

However, as with other forms of bodyweight training, as you progress, the movements become harder and it helps to have some extra tools such as a pull up bar, kettlebells and a medicine ball, but of course these can be improvised using tree branches, rocks, logs etc if you really want to be strict about the natural ethos!

Finally, if you want some inspiration, check out this master class of natural movement, showing just what human beings are capable of.

Buche de Noel

This festive Yule Log makes a great Christmas dessert when you’re getting a bit over eating fruit mince all the time.


Chocolate sponge:

  • 3 eggs
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 80g self raising flour
  • 25g cocoa powder

Chocolate ganache:

  • 180g dark chocolate
  • 300g silken tofu


  • Coconut yoghurt 250ml
  • Cherries – 100-150g copped and stirred into yoghurt


Chocolate ganache:

  1. I make this ganache while the sponge is cooking in the oven (see below)
  2. Whisk/ blend the tofu in a bowl until smooth
  3. Melt the chocolate over a pan of boiling water
  4. Allow to cool slightly and add to tofu
  5. Mix together until smooth

Chocolate sponge:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180ºC
  2. Beat the eggs and sugar together for about 8 mins with an electric whisk, until thick and creamy
  3. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder
  4. Fold the added flour and cocoa powder into the mixture
  5. Tip mixture into a shallow swiss roll tin (33x22cm)
  6. Spread evenly and thinly, making sure to get into all 4 corners of the tin
  7. Bake at 180ºC for 10 mins
  8. Tip the sponge out of the tin onto another sheet of baking paper
  9. Roll up from short edge whilst warm (don’t worry if the sponge cracks, it will all be covered in ganache shortly!)
  10. Allow to cool
  11. Unroll and spread evenly with the yoghurt/ cherry mixture
  12. Roll up again
  13. Use a spatula to coat with the ganache
  14. Drag a fork lengthways along the log to mark the surface and give the appearance of bark
  15. Place in the fridge and allow to chill


Baked Veggie Samosas

Quick and easy to make. Plant-based. Baked not deep fried. Delicious as a snack or for lunch.  Serve with chilli dipping sauce. What’s not to like.


  • Potatoes – 300g
  • Cauliflower – 250g
  • Peas – 125g
  • Chickpeas – 1/2 cup
  • Small Onion – 1
  • Garlic – 2 cloves
  • Fresh Ginger – 1 tsp
  • Chilli flakes – 1 pinch
  • Cumin – 1 tsp
  • Coriander – 1 tsp (or Fresh coriander – 1/4 cup)
  • Filo pastry
  • Olive or Rapeseed Oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  2. Chop the potatoes into approx. 2cm pieces
  3. Break the cauliflower up into small florets
  4. Boil the potatoes for 10mins and cauliflower for 5-7mins in the same pan
  5. Add the peas for one minute at the end
  6. In a separate pan, fry the chopped onion in some olive/ rapeseed oil for about 5 minutes with the cumin and dried coriander if using
  7. Add the garlic, chilli, ginger and chickpeas and fry for another few minutes, seasoning with a little salt and black pepper
  8. Now add the boiled potatoes, cauliflower and peas to the onion/ spice mix and mash sparingly, leaving the mixture pretty chunky
  9. Cut the filo pastry into rectangles (approx. 10cm x 20cm)
  10. Place 2 tablespoons of the mixture into one corner of a pastry strip
  11. Fold into the corners until you get to the end of the pastry strip
  12. Repeat for the rest of the mixture/ pastry
  13. Brush the tops with a little oil and bake for 20 mins until golden



Christmas Stollen

Stollen is a rich, stodgy, fruit bread, laced with spices and marzipan, traditionally baked at Christmas-time in Germany.  This version is very loosely adapted from a Bake Off recipe, but with significantly less caster sugar and uses extra virgin olive oil instead of butter.


(Makes 2 Stollen)

  • Dried instant yeast – 1½ teaspoons
  • Caster sugar – 1½ teaspoons
  • Plain flour – 200g
  • Strong malted flour – 300g
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon
  • Extra virgin olive oil – 75g
  • Milk (any sort) – 300mls
  • Currants – 100g
  • Raisins – 100g
  • Dried cranberries – 50g
  • Dried apricots – 50g
  • Ground all spice – ¼ teaspoon
  • Cinnamon – ¼ teaspoon
  • Nutmeg – ¼ teaspoon
  • Ground star anise – 1 pinch
  • Ground cloves – 1 pinch
  • Ground green cardamom pod seeds – 1 pinch
  • Marzipan – 200g
  • Icing sugar – 2 teaspoons


  1. Place the yeast, sugar, flour, salt, olive oil and  milk together in a large bowl
  2. Mix and knead for about 5 minutes
  3. Now mix the dried fruit and spices together in a large bowl and then add the dough
  4. Continue to mix and knead until the fruit and spices are integrated and the  dough is nice and supple
  5. Cover and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1-2 hours, until the dough has roughly doubled in size
  6. Then take your dough and divide into two equal portions
  7. Take one portion and roll it out into a rectangular shape approximately 20cm x 40cm
  8. Now take the half the marzipan (100g), and roll this out as well, so that it is also rectangular but slightly shorter; about 20cm x 35cm
  9. Place the rolled out marzipan on top of the rolled out dough, matching the 20cm sides
  10. Now roll up the dough/marzipan mix in the direction of the longest side to make a fairly compact log
  11. Repeat steps 7-10 with the remaining dough and marzipan
  12. Place the logs on a baking tray, cover and allow to rise in a warm area for another 45-60 mins
  13. Preheat your oven to 160°C
  14. Bake the stollen logs in the oven for approximately 1 hour (check they don’t burn)
  15. Once cooked, remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool
  16. When the stollen is cool, brush the top and sides with olive oil and dust with icing sugar
  17. Leave until completely cool before cutting and eating







Print Recipe
Christmas Stollen

Banana Flapjacks

This is a simple plant-based flapjack recipe, that holds together really nicely. Using bananas, dried fruit and maple syrup means you don’t need to add crazy amounts of refined sugar.


  • 3 bananas
  • 250g organic oats
  • 75g mixed seeds (sunflower/ pumpkin/ chia)
  • 75g dried cranberries
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C
  2. Take a large bowl and mash the bananas up with a fork
  3. Melt the coconut oil gently in a saucepan until it becomes liquid
  4. Add the coconut oil, maple syrup, coconut, seeds, dried fruit and oats to the banana mash
  5. Mix together thoroughly
  6. Transfer the mixture into a shallow baking tin lined with baking paper and use your fingers to spread the mixture evenly into the tin
  7. Bake for 30 minutes and then place onto a wire rack to cool



Bonfire Night Parkin

I was a bit unsure whether to post this recipe, as it’s not exactly healthy. To make it more in keeping with the Natural Born Fitness ethos, I’ve modified the traditional Northern English recipe quite a bit, omitting the muscavado sugar completely, and substituting the butter and cow’s milk for olive oil and rice milk respectively. Best to use it as a delicious seasonal treat or as comforting hill food.


  • Olive oil – 100g
  • Treacle (or molasses) – 100g
  • Golden Syrup – 100g
  • Self raising flour – 200g
  • Ground ginger – 3 tsp
  • Ground cinnamon – 1 tsp
  • Bicarbonate of soda – 1 tsp
  • Pinhead oatmeal – 100g
  • 1 beaten egg
  • Oat milk – 120ml
  • Stem ginger – 1 tablespoon – chopped
  • Optional: apple puree – 1 tablespoon


  1. Preheat oven to 150 °C
  2. Line a square cake tin with baking paper
  3. Place the oil, treacle and syrup in a small saucepan and heat gently until completely mixed together
  4. Remove and allow to cool
  5. Add the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda, oatmeal and stem ginger to a large bowl and mix together
  6. Gradually stir in the cooled treacle/syrup/oil mixture
  7. Next stir in the beaten egg, oat milk (and apple puree if using) until you get a smooth mixture
  8. Pour the batter you’ve created into the cake tin
  9. Place in the oven and bake for approximately 30 mins
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool
  11. Ideally you should store the Parkin for a few days before eating (good luck with that)


Health in the time of Corona

We’re living through strange and challenging times at the moment. Many of us will be anxious about our own health and that of our family and friends, about our livelihoods and about what the future will look like in a post-Covid world. Some of us will be busy with work. Others may have more time on their hands than usual. Some will be feeling lonely and isolated.

The pandemic and social distancing are going to be with us in one shape or form for many months, possibly years. This presents challenges, but it’s also a unique opportunity to improve our physical and mental health, and think about what sort of world we want to inhabit when the immediate crisis is over.

So what simple things can we do to stay healthy, optimise our immunity and improve our resilience at this time?

General public health guidance

Firstly and most obviously, we need to heed the national prevention guidance on social distancing and hand hygiene. At the time of writing, this involves:

  • Staying at home if you’ve got symptoms of COVID-19 (cough, high temperature, change in sense of taste or smell)
  • Keeping 2m apart from people not in your household
  • Wearing a mask/ face covering in enclosed areas where social distancing is not possible
  • Paying attention to hand hygiene and washing/ gelling hands after touching shared surfaces or equipment. Avoid touching your face.

5 key areas of health

Just as before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, the key to staying healthy, active and resilient is to make sure you’re doing as many of the right things as possible in the 5 key areas of health. In other words:

  1. Manage stress
  2. Have enough good quality sleep
  3. Have regular contact with nature
  4. Move and exercise regularly
  5. Eat real food

Some of these might be more difficult than others, and I’ll address each in turn, but I’m going to pay particular attention to sleep and stress management, which are especially important at this time and have certainly been the most challenging for me over the past six months. There’s also information about nutrition, exercise and nature contact, which is drawn from other areas of this website.

1. Stress management

This is a massive subject, which I’m only able to cover superficially in this post. There are lots of different causes and solutions for stress, however in the context of the current pandemic let’s look at two practical methods we can employ to help manage it: mindset and meditation. There are plenty of other ways of coping which we can use in addition (better sleep, exercise, hobbies, less screen time, spending quality time with family and friends) but let’s focus on these two for now.

Please note, I’m not referring to clinical depression or anxiety here, rather the understandable worry and uncertainty that is a natural consequence of our current predicament.  Stress management in this context refers to performing a bit of resetting and mental jujitsu that will hopefully allow us to relax a bit and deal with the situation in a more healthy and productive way.


The  pandemic has challenged and caused fear and anxiety for the vast majority of us, whether it’s regarding our own health, the health of our family and friends, uncertainty surrounding employment, loneliness and isolation or concern about what the future holds. We can’t alter the fact that it’s happening, or the impact it has on our jobs or education, but we most certainly can control the way in which we respond to the situation in terms of our thoughts and behaviours.

We could choose to ruminate and live in fear, hoarding and stockpiling, constantly checking coronavirus news feeds. Or we could go to the other extreme and pretend that the virus is inconsequential and try and go about business as usual. Neither of these approaches is healthy.

On the other hand,  we can shift our mindset and flip the situation so that it works in our favour. Suppose we decide to take a positive approach, and view it as an opportunity for individual and societal growth?

Can you think of some ways you can turn this situation on its head. Are your priorities clearer now? What opportunities are available to you? Can you set yourself some goals?

Some obvious examples:

  • Can you become a bit more self sufficient and grow some vegetables and herbs?
  • Can you learn some DIY skills and do some of the home projects you’ve been putting off for ages?
  • Can you teach your kids some new skills?
  • Perhaps pick up a neglected musical instrument?
  • Learn a new language?
  • Maybe this is an opportunity to lose weight/ get fit/ get strong?

This is also an opportunity to take stock of what you have, rather than thinking about what you want. It can be really helpful to reflect on, or even better, write down, 3 things you are grateful for. Try doing this before sleep every day.


Our minds can easily become overwhelmed by the constant chatter of different thoughts: ruminations on previous events, plans for the future, daily worries and information overload, preventing us from being grateful for what we already have and making us lose sight of what’s truly important. This is especially true when we’re trying to deal with stressful situations.

Meditation (or mindfulness) is a useful technique that we can use to calm our minds and reset. This is done by focusing our attention (usually on our breathing, an object or a word), and quelling the intrusive chatter of the “monkey mind”.

Meditation has been around for a long time, but only recently has it been studied scientifically in randomised controlled trials and fMRI research. Preliminary evidence is encouraging, and suggests it may have a number of mental and physical benefits, including:

  • Stress reduction
  • Helps with managing anxiety and depression
  • Improved mood
  • Improved focus and attention
  • Improved sleep
  • Help with pain management

Here’s an example of a simple meditation technique, focused around breathing:

  • Ideally find a quiet space
  • Sit comfortably
  • Take 6 or 7 slow deep breaths to get you started, then just fall back into the natural rhythm of your breathing
  • Focus on your breathing. Use your diaphragm rather than your shoulders or chest. Feel your abdomen rising and falling.
  • When your attention wanders (which it will – this is normal), don’t get frustrated, just acknowledge the thought and allow it to dissolve away, and resume focus on your breathing
  • Aim for 10 mins per day, but even a few minutes is good
  • Morning is good as it helps to set you up for the day, however the evening is also useful as it helps to relax after work and as part of a sleep routine

Ultimately, your choice of meditation style is very personal, and you should experiment with different methods to find what is most helpful.

Other types of  meditation and meditative activities include guided meditations, body scanning, metta meditation, mantra meditation, mindfulness, group classes, Shinrin Yoku and listening to music.

There are numerous resources and apps out there to help you, for example:


Waking up


2. Sleep

Sleep is often underrated as a facet of health, yet it’s hard to overstate the importance of a decent nights sleep and the negative health consequences of sleep deprivation. As well as making you feel stressed and irritable, and impairing your judgement and productivity, sleep deprivation is associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, impaired immunity, depression and anxiety, cardiovascular disease and increased risk of developing some cancers.

On the other hand, the health benefits of regular, high quality sleep include more energy, improved mood, greater creativity, better immune system functioning, improved memory and concentration, easier maintenance of a healthy weight, and a reduced risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

But what is a good night’s sleep? What are we aiming for as a general rule is at least 7, preferably 8 hours of good quality, refreshing sleep. So how can we increase our chances of getting it?

The key is to create an evening routine,  and creating a good sleep environment.

A routine might look something like this:

  • Eat dinner early, at least two hours before bed, preferably more. Avoid caffeine after midday, or at least 8 hours before bed. Avoid or limit alcohol.
  • Stop using your computer/ smartphone/ checking social media/ checking emails/ news feeds/ watching TV (ie. engaging in any stimulating activities) at least 1 hour before bed, preferably longer.
  • If you must use tech in the evening, at least put it into night shift mode which limits the amount of blue light emitted. It’s thought that blue light from our phones and other computer screens inhibits melatonin production by the brain, which is crucial to our sleep/ wake cycling.
  • Instead, do something relaxing such as reading a book, having a shower or bath, listening to music, meditating , stretching.
  • Put some effort into re-organising your bedroom into a pleasant sleeping environment. Remove all screens, phones, tablets, LED’s. Makes sure the bedroom is dark, quiet and cool. Use thick curtains or even black-out blinds if you have a lot of light pollution outside your window.
  • Inevitably on some days, life will get in the way and you won’t be able stick to this routine. That’s OK. Think of it as the ideal which we’re striving for and try and achieve it most of the time. Don’t beat yourself up if you lapse. A sleep routine is a habit and habits take time to develop.

3. Nature

The health benefits of nature are clearly acknowledged in the public health guidelines issued during the early days of the pandemic, which prioritised allowing us to escape lockdown and do some sort of outdoor exercise every day.

We intuitively know that nature contact is good for us, however this intuitive knowledge is now backed up by a growing body of empirical research and epidemiological studies, which strongly suggest that interacting with nature has a wide range of health benefits; not just psychological, but also physical, cognitive and social.

Here are just a few of the reported benefits:

  • Reduced mortality from all causes
  • Reduced risk of suffering from certain illnesses
  • Stress reduction
  • Improved mood and self esteem
  • Improved short term memory
  • Increased creative problem solving ability
  • Reduced inflammatory markers
  • Increased expression of anti-cancer proteins
  • Reduced symptoms in people with mental health problems
  • Reduced symptoms in children with ADHD
  • Reduced health inequality

The reality nowadays however, is that most people live in an increasingly urbanised environment and spend much of their time indoors, especially during winter, which can make getting regular nature exposure quite challenging.

Whilst it’s always going to be preferable to get outside whenever possible, there is some (rather limited) evidence that exposure to indoor nature such as indoor plants, images of nature or window views of nature provide at least some of the health benefits associated with exposure to outdoor green spaces. This is important if you live in an apartment with no access to a garden, park or countryside and especially so if we have to go back into lockdown.

Proposed benefits of indoor nature include:

  • Improved mood
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved attention
  • Improved cognitive function

Whilst the evidence is somewhat limited and many questions remain to be answered, there’s no harm in arranging our indoor environment in such a way as to increase our exposure to indoor nature. For example:

  • Buy some indoor plants
  • Plant some indoor seeds
  • Let in as much natural light as possible
  • Arrange your furniture and seating to take advantage of any views of nature such as trees or sky
  • Take some photos of natural landscapes you enjoy and put them up on your walls
  • Collect some natural objects and create some home art with them (eg. pine cones, leaves, bark, stones, shells)
  • Watch inspiring nature documentaries
  • Use natural sounds (from apps) as ambient noise (eg. rain, waves, frogs, crickets)

Here are some other tips and suggestions to help us get a regular dose of real nature:

Work nature into your daily routine

Time can be a big issue for most of us, but what about sitting outside for 10 minutes at some point during the day. If you have a garden or balcony, can you have your morning cup of coffee outside before you start the day, or when you get home to help you unwind? If the weather’s OK can you eat your dinner al fresco?

Alternatively, is there a park or other public green space near your work where you can go and have lunch, or take a short walk during the day?

Another obvious way to increase both your nature exposure and exercise is to switch from using your car or public transport, to active travel for your daily commute to work.

If that’s not possible, maybe you could try walking or cycling to work one day a week. If it’s too far, can you drive or get public transport part of the way, and walk or cycle the rest? Can you design a route that takes you through a park or other type of green space?

Take your exercise outside

Is it possible to take your workout outside occasionally?

Nature provides a great natural gym. You can go to your garden, local park or woodland and do some outdoor high intensity circuit training: pull-ups on tree branches, deadlifts using rocks, farmers carries using logs, jumps onto or between obstacles.

If you’re into running, instead of pounding the pavements, can you find a local trail to explore? If you like swimming, have you ever considered ocean swimming or wild swimming in rivers or lakes?

Go on a microadventure

This is a great term coined by adventurer Alastair Humphreys. According to his definition, a microadventure is “an adventure that is close to home, cheap, simple, short, and yet very effective.” This sounds like something that’s ideally suited to our current situation, where we’re trying to avoid travel outwith our local areas, to minimise the spread of Covid.

For a start, why not try spending the night camping in your back garden occasionally? If you’ve got young kids, you can involve them too. They’ll think it’s a great adventure.

Tents, sleeping bags and all the other requisite gear for camping are becoming much more affordable. You don’t need to buy a top of the range, 4 season expedition tent that can withstand Himalayan storms!

What if you don’t have a garden or if you want to explore further afield? Try wild camping…but remember that you can’t just set up camp anywhere. In England and Wales you may need permission from the landowner. In Scotland the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 applies, giving you the right to roam, as long as it’s in a responsible manner.

Wherever you go though, it’s very important to act responsibly, be as inconspicuous as possible and leave no trace. Pack out all litter, avoid fires, and learn how to take a shit in the woods properly. Seriously – find a suitable spot at least 50m away from water, take a small trowel, and bury your waste in a hole at least 6 inches deep.

Take this opportunity to truly explore your local area, on foot, by bike, on or in the water. You could also try foraging for seasonal wild foods such as wild garlic, elderflowers, mussels and blackberries.

Change your mindset (and your clothes)

Here in the UK, the weather can be perceived as a significant barrier to getting outside. But we‘re not the only country to have challenging weather conditions. Modern outdoor clothing is highly effective at keeping us warm and dry in all but the most miserable conditions. And remember how great it feels to come inside after having an outdoor adventure in the cold and wet.

All we need is a change of mindset. The health benefits of nature are on offer whatever the weather, so invest in some decent outdoor gear and rediscover that being outside is an important and normal part of everyday life.

4. Movement and fitness

Again this is a huge topic, but in the context of staying  healthy during the pandemic, let’s focus on High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Why? Because HIIT can be done while cooped up at home, no special equipment is required (just a bit of floor space and your own bodyweight), and there’s pretty good evidence that even short periods of HIIT improves health and fitness. For more in depth information about the science behind it, check out this blog post.

High Intensity Interval Training simply means repeated bursts of high intensity exercise at, or approaching, maximal effort, with short periods of rest or low intensity activity in between.  In lab studies, HIIT regimes tend to involve treadmills and cycle ergometers, and you can certainly work a HIIT schedule into your run, cycle or rowing sessions. However, in reality there are endless ways of doing HIIT.

The simplest way would be to work interval training into your daily routine. For example, if you are out walking then you could simply pick up the pace for short periods, or walk up hills, or take the stairs more often.

However, it’s now becoming really popular to do a form of HIIT known as High Intensity Circuit Training (HICT) – there’s no special equipment required here, it can be performed anywhere, using body weight as resistance.

For an example, try the HICT workout on this website.

Other HIIT resources:

Martin Gibala

The Body Coach (aka Joe Wicks)

5. Eat real food

More time at home is giving us the opportunity to do more home cooking, and put more thought into what we buy from the supermarket – this is a great opportunity to look at what we eat and optimise our eating habits to improve our health and immunity. Eating healthily is not complicated – here are the NBF food principles:

  1. Eat real food, not the mass produced snacks, breakfast cereals, ready meals and processed food found in the middle aisles of the supermarket
  2. Eat a plant based whole foods diet i.e. a diet based around plenty of vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds and grains
  3. Limit your consumption of meat and dairy – whether or not you decide to eliminate them completely is more of an ethical and environmental issue. See here for further information.
  4. Eat SLOW food whenever possible – Seasonal, Local, Organic, Whole food
  5. Cook your own food as much of the time as you can, that way you know what you’re eating
  6. Fast food is OK – as long as you make it yourself!
  7. Avoid soft drinks like the plague – stick to water, tea, coffee, herbal teas (and avoid caffeine after midday)
  8. Everything in moderation – including moderation. There’s nothing wrong with eating out, getting takeaway and having cake from time to time – just not everyday. However, most people tend to find that the healthier their diet, the less they view these sort of things as treats and the less inclined they are to want to eat them.

There’s an ever evolving list of plant based recipes on this website if you need some recipes and ideas.



Pulled Jackfruit

Jackfruit is a tropical fruit native to South India, which you can buy tinned, in brine. It has a firm, meaty texture, making it ideal to use as an alternative to pulled pork.

Serve wrapped in flatbreads with coleslaw and leafy greens.


Pulled jackfruit

  • 2 red or brown onions – halved and thinly sliced
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic – crushed
  • 2 cans jackfruit in brine – drained
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)
  • 2 tbsps dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp tamari


  • 1/2 medium red cabbage (approx 500g) – core removed, finely sliced
  • 1 medium carrot – washed and skin on, grated
  • 1 spring onion – finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 tbsp horseradish sauce
  • 2 tbsps tahini
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • Pinch of salt


( Makes 8 medium sized flatbreads)

  • 1 cup plain white flour
  • 1 cup Rye or Spelt flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup water


Pulled Jackfruit:

  • Saute the onion in a saucepan over a low heat with a glug of olive oil for about 10 mins until transparent
  • Add the 2 cloves of crushed garlic and smoked paprika and cook for another couple of minutes
  • Add the 2 cans of drained jackfruit chunks and stir
  • Add the can of chopped tomatoes and 1/2 tin water
  • Cover and simmer over a low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally
  • After 1 hour, gently mash up the jackfruit with a spoon or fork so the pieces fall apart into smaller chunks


  • Mix the horseradish, tahini, lime juice, boiling water and salt in a bowl and whisk together
  • Add the sauce to the shredded vegetables and pine nuts in a large bowl and toss together to cover evenly


  • Add the flour, salt and water to a bowl and mix together
  • Knead the mixture on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes until you get a smooth dough
  • Ideally allow the dough to rest for about 30 minutes (this step is preferable but not crucial)
  • Divide the dough into 8 pieces and shape into rounds
  • Roll each round into a thin flatbread
  • Heat up a frying pan (no oil required) and add a flatbread to the pan once hot
  • Cook one side for 30 – 60 seconds until it starts to develop brown spots
  • Flip over and cook the other side for a similar amount of time
  • Repeat for the rest of the batch
  • Wrap the freshly cooked flatbreads in a clean tea towel to prevent them from drying out and becoming crispy – you want them soft and moist in order to use them as wraps