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Positive Nutrition on the Cheap

positive-nutritionWhen it comes to food, it can be hard to figure out a balance between nutrition, seasonality, and cost. So, we’re delighted to be joined by the nutritional therapy team from Positive Nutrition, an intriguing and relatively new company with a simple and uncomplicated approach to healthy eating.

Every month, they’ll be contributing a column to CheapEats with some great tips and advice. In their first column, expert nutritionist Heather Leeson gives us some great tips on spinach.

Their new cookery course, which includes tips on smart shopping, portion size, weight loss and energy levels and, of course, how to cook, starts tonight in Dublin. For information, click here.

Positively Nourishing: Spinach

Hi, a quick word of introduction. I’m a Nutritional Therapist, co-founder of a small company called Positive Nutrition and a busy mum with two small children and another on the way. I’m a big fan of and a firm believer that you don’t have to pay a fortune to eat good, nutritious food. As we all know, one of the best ways to do this is to cook at home using fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. Myself and my fellow Nutritional Therapist Sally will be writing a monthly column focusing on a seasonal ingredient and sharing a few tips about how best to include more of it in your diet. I’d love to hear your comments and ideas for future editions of the column.

fresh-spinachThe spinach that I planted last autumn in my tiny city garden has come back to life and is ready to be picked, so a good time to write about this fantastic vegetable. We all know that spinach is good for us – Popeye was right! It’s an excellent source of Vitamins C, K and A and also rich in folic acid, magnesium, potassium…… in fact almost a multivitamin in a leaf. It’s a particularly good vegetable source of iron, which is good news for the vegetarians amongst us, not to mention the large number of Irish people estimated to be low in this crucial nutrient. Good for the heart, eyes, energy production, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, the list goes on.

Baby leaves, well washed, are delicious thrown into a salad. I love throwing walnuts, blue cheese and a pear together with the spinach and tossing in a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a quick lunch. However iron is better absorbed when the leaves and stems are lightly cooked, so try quickly steaming the stems and leaves or else boiling in a couple of tablespoons of vegetable bouillon or even just a drop of water and butter / lemon juice / garlic or soya sauce for two minutes for a quick side dish. Great with fish, chicken or poached eggs. Boiling for more than 15 seconds also destroys E Coli, which was recently found on some spinach in the USA.

positive_nutrition_apron2People tend to either love or hate spinach and unfortunately my kids and other half think they fall into the ‘hate the stuff’ category, so I have to get a bit inventive when feeding it to them. I blend it into soups, stews and curries and have even got away with juicing it with some oranges, apples and carrots.

One recipe that is always a hit at home and on our cookery course is a really simple and cheap recipe for a delicious Thai-spiced spinach and pumpkin soup. Make it as spicy or as mild as you like. I usually roast the butternut squash when I have the oven on for something else and then make the soup the next day. Apart from the roasting it takes less than ten minutes to make this and even my one year old loves it.

Thai-Spiced Spinach and Pumpkin Soup


1 large/2 small butternut squash, washed, deseeded and cut into chunks, no need to peel.

6 – 8 large garlic cloves, unpeeled

1 14oz can coconut milk

1 tsp red Thai curry paste or more if you like it spicy. Thai Gold is a great brand

1 tbs fish sauce

750ml vegetable stock (I use Marigold lo-salt bouillon)

Large bag fresh spinach leaves, washed and finely sliced

Chopped fresh coriander and toasted pumpkin seeds to serve if liked


  • Preheat the oven to 200C
  • Place chopped squash on baking sheet in oven and roast for 40 – 60 minutes, turning occasionally, until squash is tender.
  • Separate the garlic cloves and add to squash ½ way through cooking
  • Heat coconut milk and curry paste in a large saucepan for 2 – 3 minutes until hot. Add fish sauce and vegetable stock and cook for 1 – 2 minutes, then add to liquid.
  • Squeeze roast garlic from outer skin and add to soup
  • Add spinach and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove from heat, blend and serve with toasted pumpkin seeds and chopped coriander
  • To make this dish even more filling and to lower the glycemic index, add a tin of butter beans to the coconut milk and curry paste.

A tip: don’t buy reduced fat coconut milk. It is usually just normal coconut milk with water added, so you are actually paying more for water! Just dilute it yourself.

Total cost of ingredients is usually €6 – €8 and it makes a huge pot of soup. Keeps in the fridge for a couple of days and perfect for freezing if not all demolished straight away.

Spinach is also really easy to grow, even in a small garden or raised bed. Even a patio container will give you enough for regular salads. If you plant it now it should still be ok to harvest before the dry summer months when it tends to bolt. I bought my seeds in Aldi last year for about one euro and got a great crop last year and another one now. Beware though, slugs love it. Have any gardeners out there got tips for keeping them at bay? I’ve tried the beer traps and glass and want to steer clear of slug pellets.


  1. Can’t wait to learn more about seasonal ingredients and try some new recipes!

    For the slugs I’ve heard that brillo pads around the tub/containers works and also copper tape gives them a shock and is supposed to be good. Try finding it on

  2. Hi, great post, looking forward to the next ones! Any words on limiting the amount of spinach eaten, because of the oxalic acid content? In my house we all fall into the “love it” category for spinach, but I was worried to find out we might be actually doing ourselves damage by having it too often…Could you comment? Thanks!

  3. I find a really easy wasy to cook spinach for a quick lunch is to stir fry it lightly and mix with some tomato and sliced quorn sausage with one slice of low fat cheese, then stuff it into a wholemeal pitta with lettuce. Very quick healthy lunch.

  4. When does the squash get added? Do you take the skin off after roasting?

  5. thanks for the comments and ideas.

    Liana, you are right. Spinach is a high-oxalate food and oxalates are known to lower calcium absorption. However the fact that spinach is a good source of calcium seems to outweigh it’s oxalic effects. Also, lightly cooking the spinach reduces it’s oxalate content. So eating it regularly is no problem, but remember it’s important to eat a good variety of fruit and veg.

    Katie, apologies, reading back the recipe it doesn’t make sense! Add in the roast squash with the fish sauce and vegetable stock. You don’t need to remove the skin, it should be nice and soft and just disappears when the soup is blended. One less job!