Croí’s 2020 Annual Report highlights huge impact across the West

Croí, the heart and stroke charity, has released its 2020 Annual Report, which details its response to the pandemic and the launch of new, award-winning programmes for people living with, or affected by, heart disease and stroke.

“2020 was unquestionably a very challenging year, not only for our organisation, but for our community and those living with or affected by heart disease and stroke. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our lives in ways we didn’t think imaginable, but we are proud to say that Croí stepped up to the challenge and provided support as best we could to the people we serve,” says Neil Johnson, Chief Executive, Croí.

Although the Croí Heart and Stroke Centre was forced to close to the public in early March 2020, Croí offered their Centre to the HSE, who used it as a regional Contact Tracing Centre. The Croí Team adjusted to remote working and developed first-in-Ireland virtual programmes to support people living with heart disease and stroke.

Croí was to the forefront in responding to the needs of patients and carers, who were severely impacted by the pandemic through decreased access to health services, delayed or postponed appointments and procedures, leading to increased levels of anxiety, stress and worry. Croí’s Heartlink West free telephone support line became a vital lifeline for people all across the country, with 80 – 100 calls each week to Croí’s Cardiovascular Nurse Specialist.

“This report illustrates that despite COVID-19, our staff responded to all the challenges; pivoted to online and hybrid health programme delivery, and innovated in digital revenue generation, to allow us achieve our mission of supporting those most in need. As we are funded entirely through our own revenue generation activities, we could not do this important work without the very generous support of our donors, sponsors and volunteers, and for this we are deeply indebted,” says Johnson.

Read the report now on the Croí website, www.croi.ie/annualreport

Four Croí Health Team members with their specialty

Power your Heart, Power your Life – Top Tips from the Croí Health Team

Did you know, up to 80% of heart disease and stroke can be prevented? Conditions like atrial fibrillation and hypertension – all forms of heart disease – are among the most common causes of health problems and death in Ireland. Heart disease and stroke are strongly linked to certain risk factors. Some risk factors are out of our control, like our family history and age. However, there are many risk factors that we can control, including blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, diabetes control, physical inactivity, overweight or obesity, and stress. You can reduce your risk of experiencing heart disease or stroke by making changes that improve your risk factors, like exercising, eating a heart healthy diet and learning about your individual risk factors.

Own your heart health!

Headshot of Maeve
Maeve Frawley – Heartlink West Nurse

As we age, so does our cardiovascular system. It is never too early or late to take action on our heart health! But it becomes particularly important as we approach mid-life. The number 1 Croí mantra when it comes to owning your heart health is to know your numbers in relation to those all important risk factors. By being aware of your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, blood glucose control if you are living with diabetes, and the recommended targets for these factors; you will know when it is time to take action.

Early detection and engagement with treatment is vital for getting on top of things. Lifestyle changes, medications and other treatments can have life changing and lifesaving impacts!

Maeve’s Top Tips:

  1. Know your numbers: own your heart health by getting informed.
  2. Check it: visit your GP annually to find out about your risk factors and how you can stay on top of them.
  3. If you heart says so, just go: the signs of a heart attack include chest discomfort, discomfort in other areas like the arms, neck or jaw, shortness of breath, and other signs like nausea. Never take the risk of waiting or delaying if you think you, or someone around you is having a heart attack. Call 999 or 112 immediately.

The way to our hearts is through our stomachs!

Aisling Harris – Cardiac and Weight Management Dietitian

What we eat has a big impact on our heart health and risk of cardiovascular disease. For example, salt is the biggest contributor to raised blood pressure. 80% of the salt we eat is already found in foods. We should aim to have no more than 5g of salt per day. To give you an idea of how quickly salt intake can add up, 2 slices of sliced pan bread contains about 1g of salt – 20% of the recommended intake!

Alcohol also has a significant impact on blood pressure. The weekly guidelines for low risk alcohol intake are no more than 17 units per week for a man and 11 for a women. It also suggests to have at least 2 alcohol free days per week.

On a more positive note, there are lots of foods that can benefit our hearts. For example, porridge oats as well as beans, lentils, legumes and pulses can help lower cholesterol. Fruit and vegetables contain antioxidants that help protect the lining of our blood vessels. Oily fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocado all contain heart healthy fats. Fibre, something 80% of us don’t eat enough of, plays a big role in managing cholesterol, balancing blood sugars and regulating appetite. Fibre is found in wholegrain bread and cereals, porridge, wholegrain rice and pasta, potato skins, fruits, vegetables, legumes, pulses, nuts and seeds.

Aisling’s Top Tips:

  1. Know your food: read food labels to help you choose foods low in saturated fat and salt.
  2. The basics: aim for 7 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, the more variety the better.
  3. Go green: try to reduce your consumption of red meat (to 2 times per week) and avoid processed meats.
  4. Change it up: include fish twice per week, one of which should be an oily fish and try to have a meat free day once per week – experiment with recipes that use beans, lentils or chickpeas instead of meat.

Move your body, mind your heart!

Caroline Costello – Physical Activity Specialist

Being physically active is one of the most important steps you can take to improve your health. Regular exercise has many important health benefits such as improved cardiovascular fitness, blood pressure and blood sugar control. Exercise improves flexibility, balance and coordination; it’s a great stress buster and is critical in maintaining a healthy weight. Think about the impact of these benefits on your busy daily life, whether you are taking care of children or other family members, at work or on the golf course!

The aim is to achieve at least 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity activity, five days a week (or 150 minutes a week). That might sound like a lot, but remember you will still have 23 ½ hours left in your day to do everything else!

Caroline’s Top Tips:

  1. Start small: if 150 minutes of physical activity a week seems like a lot, break it down into ten minute sessions throughout the day and build up from there.
  2. Create a routine: plan a time to do some physical activity that fits in with the rest of your day.
  3. Variety is the spice of life: make a list of enjoyable activities, such as dancing and yoga, and place them in a jar. Pick a different activity to do each week to keep things interesting.
  4. Sit less, move more: remember, everyday activities count, so look out for opportunities to be active during the day. For example, can you take a phone call standing up?

Getting from knowing to doing!

Dr. Lisa Hynes – Head of Health Programmes & Health Psychologist

Now that you know the Croí team’s top tips for charging up your heart health, it will be easy to get exercising, make those diet changes and get that blood pressure checked, right? Probably not! Taking action and making changes can be really hard. It is a lot more than just knowing what is good for us! Here is how you can help yourself make that leap from knowing to doing.

Lisa’s Top Tips:

  1. Set SMART goals: start with one thing you would really like to change, and you think you can change. Make this goal Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and put a Timeline on it – By Christmas, I will be walking 10,000 steps a day, which I will track using a pedometer.
  2. Action plan for success: make your goal a reality by putting a clear plan in place – I’ll increase my steps from my current level by 500 every week, walking around the local pitch which is well lit. I enjoy walking so I know I can do this, and I will ask my neighbour to join me to help me stick to the plan!
  3. Go easy on yourself: there will be times when life gets in the way of your well laid plans. A great way to help us make a change is to think about and remove barriers. If you know that you going to put off your walk on a rainy evening, invest in some rain gear or plan an indoor activity for those days. If you miss a day, try not to be too hard on yourself. Instead think about how to get back on the horse tomorrow.
  4. Stressed is desserts spelled backwards: busy and stressful times in our lives often bring a halt to our health and self-care routines and plans. Try to plan ahead to keep up those exercise and healthy eating plans during busy times, like the back to school transition or holiday times, and notice opportunities to up your stress management game if needed – going to bed earlier, sharing worries with a friend, taking some quiet time for yourself, trying meditation – there are lots of ways we can give ourselves the head space to allow us to make heart healthy choices.

To find out more about risk factors for heart disease and stroke and taking care of your heart health, visit www.croi.ie or email healthteam@croi.ie. Maeve, our Heartlink West nurse can be contacted from 9-5 Monday to Friday on 091-544310 if you would like some information or support.

Croí’s Golden Ticket Raffle is Here, Just in Time for Christmas!

 

**A Message From Christine Flanagan, Croí’s Director Of Fundraising**

The last two years have brought us all on a journey. We have been through hard times and have dealt with loss in ways unimaginable. However, we have also come together as a community and have supported one another through it all. This Christmas, more than ever, we at Croí Heart and Stroke Charity need your continued support. Our Golden Ticket Raffle is the perfect way to show your giving spirit. 

I hope you’ll let me tell you about how your generosity can save lives. It’s a story of how support for Croí Heart and Stroke Charity matters to families like in the case of Pat Fox from Elphin, Co Roscommon. And at this time of year, when we hold loved ones close to our hearts, I hope it shows how you can help entire families when you participate in our Golden Ticket Raffle. As we come to the end of 2021, we are in urgent need of generous friends. Two years of the pandemic have dealt a terrible blow to our financial support … but people like Pat don’t need us any less now. That’s why our Golden Ticket Raffle is so critical.

Pat Fox family portrait for the Golden Ticket Raffle
The Fox Family

Each ticket costs just €5, and there are so many great cash prizes to win, with a cash fund of €5,000! Even if you only take one ticket, it will help, but please sell as many as you can. They make great gifts, and you’ll be providing lifesaving gifts to people like Pat. 

Pat’s Story

Pat was a healthy marathon runner as a young man, but decades of long, stressful hours building a business took its toll. In 2005, he suffered a heart attack that required urgent intervention, with Pat needing two stents. Like most people after such a traumatic experience, Pat was frightened and anxious. Every sensation in his chest left him wondering if his life was about to end. His wife and his daughter were even more afraid than he was. When families are confused in the face of heart disease or stroke, they turn to Croí. You can help make sure we’re always here. Through the Golden Ticket Raffle, you’ll help lead the fight to prevent heart disease and stroke in Ireland. You’ll save lives and promote recovery and well-being. 

You see, over the years, Pat made the effort to restore his health. Despite his efforts, Pat’s body still struggled, and two years ago, he had a stroke that damaged some of his memory and verbal skills. He has worked hard to recover these and to continue taking steps to improve his health. He found help by accessing free health programmes from Croí including fitness and lifestyle change programmes, and also by checking in by phone with the Croí health team on the Heartlink West helpline when he had questions. Pat told me how life-changing the support of Croí has been: “I spend a lot of time reading food labels. Thanks to Croí, I know what to avoid. Croí taught me that my heart is a muscle. I didn’t know that. Now I know I have to exercise that muscle to keep it healthy. I exercise 45 minutes every single day!” 

Pat credits the Croí health programme he completed last Christmas with keeping him alive, and he is now a regular participant in our weekly Heartlink West virtual chats, webinars and exercise classes. Thanks to the support of generous friends, we converted many of our programmes to online when COVID-19 made group meetings unsafe. That turned out to be a lifesaving gift to Pat. 

Pat and Carol Fox portait photo
Pat and Carol Fox

You see, in March, Pat was doing his usual morning walk when he felt a little strange with some tightness around his chest. At first, he thought maybe it was just something he ate. “In past times, I would have just pushed onward. But because of what I learned from Croí, I stopped. And when the same thing happened the next day, I went to see a doctor.” He went in for tests, and it was good that he did because he had a serious blockage in a main artery going to his heart and needed another stent to prevent a heart attack! His doctor said, “If you had kept walking, you would have been in serious trouble.”

 If it wasn’t for the generous support of people like yourself, Pat may not be with his family this Christmas. Through your support of our annual Golden Ticket Raffle, you will help support and educate thousands of individuals like Pat to help them recover from a heart attack or stroke, and help prevent recurrences. That’s how you could save lives!

How You Can Help: The Golden Ticket Raffle 

And that’s why I ask you to help make our Golden Ticket Raffle a huge success this Christmas. You can buy tickets yourself or sell them to friends, neighbours, or work colleagues. We even have an online option — just visit www.croi.ie/raffle

The raffle takes place on December 20th, so there’s even time to request more tickets. Every ticket you sell helps provide education, lifestyle programmes, cardiac research, a home from home in our Courtyard Apartments, and support programmes for families who are dealing with fear and stress caused by heart disease and stroke. 

Pat and his family are eternally grateful to Croí. They encourage you to support the Golden Ticket Raffle this year. Pat says, “As a family, we will never forget the kindness that Croí has shown to us and we hope that we can repay you in the future.” In fact, Pat is planning his own fundraising event in aid of Croí as a way of giving back. 

Sincerely, 

Christine Flanagan, Director of Fundraising

 

Croí thanks Night Run participants for their incredible support!

The 7th Annual Croí Night Run, in aid of Croí, the heart and stroke charity, took place virtually on Friday, October 8, with a record number of participants running and walking a 5km in their local area.

“Over 2,800 people joined us this year from every county in Ireland and internationally from dozens of countries including Australia, USA, Brazil, the UK and more! We are so grateful to everyone who joined us for this event. It’s one of our favourite events of the year and we love seeing all of our Croí friends out running and walking in support of people living with heart disease,” says Christine Flanagan, Croí’s Director of Fundraising.

With thanks to Croí’s new Night Run sponsor Irish Life Health and media partner, iRadio, 100% of the proceeds will go directly to supporting Croí services. This includes supporting our health and support programmes including Heartlink West (our free community phone line) and the Croí Courtyard Apartments, free to families in need while their loved ones receive heart or stroke care.

Edel McDermott, spokesperson from Irish Life Health commented, “It was fantastic to see so many people participate in this year’s event. A huge thank you to the 1,700 people who joined our MyLife challenge and tracked their run. Thanks to their efforts, we are delighted to announce that together with MyLife, Irish Life Health are donating a further €5,000 to Croí.”

Save the date for next year, Friday October 7, 2022! For more information on Croí, please visit www.croi.ie.

Croí & Mayo Pharmacies launch free blood pressure checks for September

Own it, Check it, Sort it!

The Croí Third Age Mayo project, which aims to promote healthy cardiovascular ageing, is delighted to partner with local pharmacies across Mayo for the month of September to offer free blood pressure checks to people over 55 years of age who have not had their blood pressure checked in the past year.

High blood pressure (hypertension) can put a strain on your arteries and organs, which can increase your risk of developing serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes. Members of the public found to have high blood pressure will be offered advice and information, as well as the opportunity to take part in a free blood pressure management programme, delivered by the Croí multi-disciplinary health team.

“If you’re over the age of 55, you should have your blood pressure checked once a year. A blood pressure test is a simple way of checking if your blood pressure is too high. If you have high blood pressure, you can work with your doctor to control it and reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke,” says Dr. Lisa Hynes, Croí Head of Health Programmes.

People over 55 years of age interested in a free blood pressure check can simply contact one of the participating pharmacies. See croi.ie/third-age-mayo-bp to learn more.

The pharmacies participating in the pilot programme are:

  • Achill – Molloy’s
  • Balla – Life Pharmacy
  • Ballaghaderreen – Molloy’s
  • Ballina – Molloy’s Garden St., Molloy’s Bunree Rd., McKane’s, Kilroy’s
  • Ballinrobe – Hynes
  • Ballyhaunis – Curley’s
  • Bangor Erris – Lavelle’s
  • Belmullet – Lavelle’s, McCormack’s
  • Castlebar – MacAuliffe’s, O’Donnell’s, Staunton’s, Treacy’s
  • Charlestown – Colleran’s
  • Claremorris – Davey’s
  • Crossmolina – Molloy’s, Quinn’s
  • Foxford – Heneghans
  • Kilkelly – Life Pharmacy
  • Killala – Lavelle’s
  • Kiltimagh – Heneghans
  • Knock – Life Pharmacy
  • Louisburgh – Staunton’s
  • Swinford – O’Connell’s
  • Westport – Treacy’s, McVann’s, O’Donnell’s, O’Connell’s, Lally’s.

Listen to your Heart – Croí Webinar on Heart Valve Disease

Join Croí for a free Heart Valve Disease webinar on Thursday, September 16th from 7-8pm.

As we get older, the valves in our heart can become diseased or damaged. Heart valve disease is common, serious, but treatable. Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week is taking place from September 13th-19th, and Croí want to raise awareness about the common symptoms of heart valve disease and encourage the public to listen to their heart!

Register for our special Heart Valve Disease webinar here!

The “Listen to Your Heart” webinar will feature contributions from interventional cardiologist, Dr Samer Arnous, and James Penny, who is living with heart valve disease. MC on the evening will be Lia Hynes, Journalist with the Irish Independent, author and podcast host. The webinar will highlight the signs and symptoms of heart valve disease and how it is detected and treated. Members of the public will have the opportunity to put their questions to Dr Arnous.

  • When: Thursday, September 16th, 2021
  • Time: 7-8pm
  • Location: Online over Zoom
  • Price: FREE

A Christmas Message from Croí CEO, Neil Johnson

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I would like to take this opportunity to convey our sincere thanks to all those who supported us through this past year. It has been a very difficult year for everyone, not least those living with or affected by cardiovascular diseases (heart, stroke, diabetes & obesity). The Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll in so many ways, it’s almost impossible to comprehend just how things have changed so quickly.

Like all charities, this year Croí faced unprecedented challenges at a time when it was most needed by those it supports. All face-to-face activity across our health programmes, patient and carer supports, research, education and fundraising events came to an abrupt halt in March. Literally overnight, our Heart & Stroke Centre in Newcastle became an empty shell, so in support of the national emergency we offered it to the HSE for use as a central contact tracing centre. Then our health team swung into action and pivoted as many of our health programmes and patient supports as possible to online ‘virtual’ delivery. In fact, they managed to very quickly create and deliver very effective programmes to high-risk groups and even launched a first-in-Ireland approach to services like cardiac rehabilitation. Additionally, despite all the challenges, we are glad to now be providing ‘virtual’ delivery of exercise classes, lifestyle change programmes, stroke support meetings and much more.

The biggest impact of Covid-19 globally has been on those living with known cardiovascular conditions. In the early days of the pandemic, extremely high levels of fear, anxiety, loneliness and isolation was experienced by those for whom access to primary and secondary care was severely interrupted; hospital appointments and procedures were postponed or cancelled and visits to those in hospital or care homes was denied. In parallel, many people experienced heart and stroke events but due to their fears of contracting the virus they delayed or even avoided seeking medical attention with resulting worse outcomes. Against this background we experienced a huge jump in the number of calls we were receiving from patients and family members so we launched a free support service, Heartlink West, which has now supported thousands of people across the West via daily telephone, online and virtual consultations. This new service allows people living with heart disease and stroke, or those concerned about their heart health, to contact Croí and connect with our multidisciplinary health team of nurses, dietitians, physiotherapists and exercise specialists. While the Heartlink West service will close for a short period over the Christmas holidays, it will open again on January 6th. (Tel 091-544310 or www.croi.ie)

Despite all the challenges and uncertainties faced by everyone over the past year, we are inspired and heartened by the many who continued to contribute financially at a time when they themselves were struggling. We couldn’t survive without this partnership and we wish to convey our deep appreciation and gratitude to all our donors, volunteers, corporate and business supporters who continued to give this year despite their own very difficult circumstances. We got through 2020 thanks to huge public support and a highly dedicated and committed staff, voluntary board of directors and a large team of volunteers. We don’t take this support for granted and we realise how fortunate we are to have this. We are preparing now for 2021 and we are committed to continuing to make a difference to the lives of those living with or affected by heart disease and stroke.

 

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas and the very best for the new year.

Many thanks,

 

Neil Johnson,
Chief Executive, Croí

Two in a Row: Galway-based charity wins Research Paper of the Year!

NIPC
Prof J William McEvoy, Medical and Research Director, NIPC

The National Institute for Prevention and Cardiovascular Health (NIPC), based in the Croí Centre, Galway, has won the Research Paper of the Year Award at the 2020 Irish Healthcare Awards for the second year in a row!

NIPC, a subsidiary of Croí, was awarded the winning research paper for their JAMA-published medical paper challenging recent guidelines defining high blood pressure. The NIPC and NUI Galway investigation, led by Prof J William McEvoy, Medical and Research Director of the NIPC, called into question the validity of recent changes to treatment recommendations for a certain type of blood pressure patient, highlighting that up to 150,000 Irish patients may not need this additional treatment.

Announced on December 1, the Irish Healthcare Awards recognise innovation and excellence in the Irish healthcare sector and are Ireland’s leading Awards, now in their 19th year. Speaking about the awards, Neil Johnson, NIPC & Croí CEO, said: “We are delighted to win this award for the second year in a row! It’s great recognition for Irish cardiovascular disease prevention and the important work being undertaken at NIPC and NUI Galway.”

This award adds to NIPC’s winning streak at the Irish Healthcare Awards – in 2019, Croí and NIPC scooped three top awards. Learn more about the work at the National Institute for Prevention and Cardiovascular Health by visiting www.nipc.ie.

Putting Focus on Stroke – World Stroke Day, Thursday October 29th.

As many as 1 in 5 people in Galway will have a stroke at some time in their lives. A stroke which is a ‘brain attack’ – is to the brain, what a heart attack is to the heart, says local heart & stroke charity Croí, ahead of World Stoke Day on Thursday October 29th.

“Stroke is one of the biggest causes of death and disability across the world” says Croí CEO Neil Johnson. “A stroke, which is a blood clot or bleed in the brain, can be fatal and cause death or cause irreversible damage to different parts of the brain which control, for example, our speech, our thinking or our movement. Many causes of stroke are completely outside of our control, however, there are some causes which we can prevent, such as high blood pressure or untreated heart rhythms such as atrial fibrillation.

To mark World Stroke Day, Croí invites people to a FREE Webinar on Thursday October 29th from 7pm – 8.30pm to learn more about stroke, stroke recovery and how to prevent one. A panel of local medical and nursing experts will speak on the causes and signs and symptoms of a stroke while a local stroke survivor will share her experience of stroke, stroke recovery and living life after a stroke. The event is supported by local company, Surmodics (Ballinasloe) who are corporate partners to the Croí Stroke Programmes & Supports.

Announcing details of the event, Croí CEO Neil Johnson says “this is a great opportunity to learn more about stroke, its impact and most importantly the steps we can take to reduce our risk of a stroke. People usually think of a stroke as an older persons problem but unfortunately, stroke has no respect for age or gender. In fact, we are increasingly seeing more cases or ‘young and working age’ strokes. The impact of a stroke can be devastating both for the survivor and their families. While incredible advances have been made in terms of stroke detection and stroke treatment, we have a long way to go in Ireland in terms of stroke recovery and rehabilitation post hospital discharge.”

Guest speakers on the Croí World Stroke Day Webinar on October 29th are:

  • Dr Niamh Hannon, Stroke Specialist, Galway University Hospital
  • Trish Galvin, Advanced Nurse Practitioner in Stroke Care, Galway University Hospital
  • Ciara Breen, Senior Occupational Therapist, Galway University Hospital
  • Norita Ní Chartúr, Stroke Survivor

Registration for this Webinar, which is FREE, is now open at www.croi.ie/strokeday20

Take Valentine’s Day to Heart!

BY CROÍ'S LEAD DIETITIAN, SUZANNE SEERY

As Valentine’s Day is approaching, it’s time to get creative! How about spending quality time with that special someone by preparing a heart healthy meal together? You can spice things up in the kitchen by using a range of herbs and spices to boost the senses and add plenty of flavour while avoiding added salt.

The colour red is often associated with love, passion and desire, so the recipes chosen feature red fruit and vegetables! Fruit and vegetables come in lots of different colours which represents the variety of antioxidants in these foods. Antioxidants are known to help keep our immune system strong, protect our body’s cells from damage and reduce the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Red fruit and vegetables get their colour from Lycopene which is known to have antioxidant properties that may help to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Lycopene is more easily absorbed in the body when it’s cooked such as in the homemade tomato and basil soup recipe included in your Valentines dinner menu!

Not only will you have fun cooking together, you will also spend a lot less as this three course meal can be prepared for less than €20 (see recipes below)!

3 Course Valentine’s Dinner Menu:

This delicious soup costs less than €5 and takes only half an hour to make! It also contains a wide range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which contribute to strong hair, skin and nails, enzyme regulation and the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Ingredients

  • 5 tbsp virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 1 bulb garlic cloves
  • 1 kg of vine / regular fresh tomatoes
  • 4 semi-sundried tomatoes

 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400F/Gas Mark 6.  Place the tomatoes on the vine and garlic in a large roasting pan, drizzle with 2 tablespoon olive oil and roast in the oven for 25 minutes or until the tomatoes have burst. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly.
  2. Squeeze the roasted garlic from its skin and remove the vine from the tomatoes.
  3. Place the garlic flesh and roasted tomatoes into a large pan, add the sundried tomatoes, basil (reserving a few leaves for garnish), and 3 tbsp olive oil. Blitz with a handheld blender until smooth, then add enough liquid to reach the desired consistency.
  4. Serve warm with a few leaves of basil torn, and some wholemeal brown bread.

This unique main course will bring your senses on a whole new adventure as you explore various Mediterranean spices. Not only will you be pleasantly surprised, you will also be doing your heart a favour. This lean-protein dish uses heart healthy olive oil or rapeseed oil, which are unsaturated fats. It also contains 3 servings of vegetables per portion and is high in vitamin C and fibre!

Ingredients:

  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 124g lean turkey breast mince (< 8% fat)
  • ½ small onion
  • 2 garlic cloves grated
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 3-4 mushrooms, sliced
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 low-salt chicken stock cube
  • 2-3 teaspoons of  dried oregano
  • 60g low-fat mozzarella, grated
  • 150g green vegetables to serve.

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Halve the peppers length-ways, then remove the seeds and core but keep the stalks on. Rub the peppers with a drizzle of olive oil and season well. Put on a baking tray and roast for 15 mins.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Fry the mince for 2-3 mins, stirring to break up the chunks, then tip onto a plate.
  3. Wipe out your pan, then heat the rest of the oil over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, stir-fry for 2-3 mins, then add the cumin and mushrooms and cook for 2-3 mins more.
  4. Tip the mince back into the pan and add the chopped tomatoes and tomato purée. Crumble in the stock cube and cook for 3-4 mins, then add the oregano and season. Remove the peppers from the oven and fill them with as much of the mince as you can. (Don’t worry if some spills out it – it will go satisfyingly crisp in the oven.) Top with the cheese and return to the oven for 10-15 mins until the cheese starts to turn golden.

Enjoy and feel guilt free in building your own fruit bowl! This activity is fun, rewarding and will allow you to show your great creative self.

Choose a mixture of berries such as strawberries, raspberries and seasonal fruits.

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