Author Archives: Frida Harju


5 Mental and Physical Benefits of Plogging

From the makers of ‘hygge’ and ‘lagom’, a new trend from Scandinavia has arrived, and it is called ‘plogging’ (from ‘jogging’ and ‘pick up’, or ‘pluck’). This new fitness trend involves picking up litter while running – effectively jogging with squats. With concern escalating over the looming environmental crisis of plastic waste, and obesity continuing to be a growing threat to public health, the plogging trend is undeniably timely.

We at the global health app, Lifesum, became the first health platform to allow its users to log and track plogging, while also promoting the initiative through a partnership with Keep America Beautiful and encouraging users to #plogging on social media as they exercise and to get the full benefits, such as:

Stress relief
Plogging is a high-intensity activity, making it a great stress reliever. When you go for a run your heart rate accelerates and, as a result, your body releases chemical endorphins that elevate your mood. As well as releasing these feel-good endorphins, running is a form of exercise that requires less active thinking, allowing your mind to switch off and helps to let go of the troublesome thoughts that may be weighing it down.

Interval training
Similar to interval training, ‘plogging’ combines a quick running step for short periods with focused lunges and squats. Interval training boosts endurance and burns more calories during and after a workout than normal running, improving fitness and fat burning for best results.

Anti – winter blues
In the darker winter months, we tend to not get enough vitamin D due to the shorter daylight hours, which is why bringing your exercise outside instead of a gym is great for getting both fresh air and some vitamin D (provided it’s not pouring rain). Going outside can also bring you closer to living a friluftsliv lifestyle – a mantra of connecting to nature which is partially responsible for making Swedes as content and healthy as they are.  

But these aren;’t just my tips. David Brudö, CEO and co-founder of mental wellbeing app, Remente, has other ideas on how ‘plogging’ benefits your mind and happiness:

Grows confidence and self-esteem
Part of the reason behind self-consciousness is a lack of control, so combining rubbish picking with running can offer a sense of control over your commute, neighbourhood, and life, which in turn builds your confidence. Regardless of weight, size or gender, exercise can quickly offer evidence of resilience and determination, not to mention weight loss, developing confidence in attractiveness and boosts feelings of self-esteem and worth.

Supports happiness and anti-depression
A big part of anxiety is being overwhelmed by too many thoughts, and if these thoughts are negative, the anxiety can switch over to a state of depression. Focusing your mind on finding, and picking up, rubbish on your run can help get your thoughts in order and deal with any negativity quickly and efficiently.

Running and helping others, the community, and environment also produces endorphins, which is the body’s natural anti-depressant. These endorphins are hormones that block pain and encourage feelings of euphoria. In other words, these hormones can make you feel more energetic, alert and happier.


Frida Harju-Westman is the in-house nutritionist for Lifesum, a Stockholm-based digital health company with over 25 million users. Using tech and psychology, it creates a tailored plan to help people live happier, more balanced lives. Whether the goal is to lose weight, build muscle, or just live a healthier life, Lifesum shows how changing small, everyday habits can transform your life. The app is available on iOS and Android.

Remente  is a free-to- use personal development platform for individuals and businesses. The app combines psychology with brain and mental training to help users reach their full potential, complete personal and professional goals, and lead a healthier lifestyle. Users can track their mood through the app, as well as undertake courses on stress management, goal setting, memory, and many others. Available to download on iOS and Android.


Health, Lifestyle, Diet, Health and Fitness Trend Predictions for 2018

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Health, Lifestyle, Diet, Health and Fitness Trend Predictions for 2018

We all get excited about health, diet, food and fitness at this time of the year, but what are the trends we can look forward to?


Steel cut oats comeback
Whilst avocado toast seems to be here to stay, a new breakfast contestant has entered the game. Experiencing a similar comeback, steel cut oats and its versatility is becoming a more frequent sighting on Instagram. Oats is filling and energy-boosting, offering an ideal blank breakfast canvas to be mixed with all your favourite delicious and nutritious toppings, including pear, raw dark chocolate, chia seeds, and (hold on to your seat) avocado. It is also a healthy way to start the day as it contains soluble fibre in much higher quantities than other grains, which helps reduce the absorption of cholesterol. Studies have shown that a 70g bowl of organic oats is enough to reduce your levels of harmful cholesterol by around 7%, similar to the results of doctor-prescribed statins.

Blue is the new green
Blue lattes and smoothies is the new hottest trend in Australia and it is only a matter of time until London’s coffee shops follow the craze. Made famous by vegan-friendly coffeehouse, Matcha Mylkcafe in Melbourne, the drink includes E3 live blue algae, making it an icy-blue hue. This superfood is packing a surprisingly high dose of protein and is great for blending into nutritious smoothies or making an Instagram friendly latte.     

Korean cuisine
So far Korean food has stayed in the shadow as other Asian foods have hit the top, but it will be taking the spotlight in 2018 as a result of the growing interest in fermented foods such as kombucha. Restaurants will be reinventing old classics with a Korean-inspired twist and will be perfect for anyone looking to upgrade from the weekly pad thai takeout.

Estonian cuisine
This is the new Nordic cuisine, a food trend emphasising the earthly flavours, made famous by chef Rene Redzepi at Noma in Copenhagen. The Estonian cuisine comprises the fresh and local, making the most of its season. Whether it’s spruce shoots or pickled ramsons, blackcurrant leaves or grated green pine cones, Estonian chefs are returning to the forest.



The sober scene
An increased interest in improving our health has meant that a growing number of people, particularly those aged 16 to 24, are shunning alcohol, according to National Statistics (2017). As a result, mixologists are starting to provide as much consideration and complexity into their ‘mocktails’ as they do to their theatre like cocktails. We are expected to see a rise in alcohol-free bars across the country as well as wider offerings in shops, with alcohol-free spirits such as Seedlip which is making an entrance into the market. 

Carbs are back to stay
The trend in recent years for creating carb-free diet and dishes seems to be over (hurrah!). Interest and innovation in bread and pasta making are bringing them back to the table, and we are bound to see an increase in dishes made on artisan pasta or accompanied by a homemade slice of bread on the side again. Supermarkets are starting to stock healthier versions of carbs alternatives such as buckwheat pasta or cauliflower rice. 

Time is of the essence
A combination of busy lives and a growing want for home cooked meals has resulted in a need for quick and (very important) healthy 15 minute or less meals. Meal plans and monthly deliveries, such as HelloFresh and Blue Apron are becoming increasingly popular and health apps, such as Lifesum and Wholesome, are offering quick healthy recipes specific to your dietary needs.

Zero waste eating
There has been a growing awareness on recycling and waste reduction for some time now. You might think that you are already doing your bit by visiting the local farmers market and using reusable shopping bags, but the latest figures show that Britons are still binning 4.4m tonnes of household food waste. The new challenge is zero waste eating; the practice of eating without producing waste, avoiding packaging and food waste by eating all parts of the food that we buy. Cutting out packaging waste is also a healthy choice, as canned and processed foods will be the first thing to go. What do you say, have you found your new year resolution?

Accepting the vegans
No longer the ‘weird’ dinner mate, vegans and vegetarians have been fully accepted into the food scene, as chefs known for their meat dishes are looking for a new challenge and diving into the world of plant-based dishes and meat alternatives. Menus are even being reorganised, less by the meat and pasta section and more by the tapas, entrees, and mains. The most recent restaurant to join the hype is Wagamama. The chain has around 120 restaurants in the UK and has introduced a new, expanded vegan and vegetarian menu including 15-items.



Technology will enhance your workouts
As technology continues to advance, we will see further evidence of the impact technology can have on our health and the advancement of fitness. In 2018, we can expect to see increasing numbers of fitness classes which you are able to livestream and join in from the comfort of your own home. In recent years we have seen the focus change from individual fitness to group training, which creates a motivating and encouraging environment for individual progress. The increasing accessibility of live streamed workouts, will enable you to still enjoy the notion of group workouts, while having the added benefit of not having to leave your house to participate. We can also expect to see virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) becoming increasingly involved in our workouts. From gyms integrating VR headsets into their workout options, to the ability to be visually transported to a fitness studio from the comfort of your own home, technological advancements such as these will ensure that our fitness is becoming a totally immersive experience.

Alternative barre workouts
Barre classes, known for their ability to effectively target and work key muscle groups, have taken both the US and the UK by storm over the last year and 2018 will be no different. As barre continues to grow in popularity, we will start to see classes evolving to incorporate other types of training such as boxing and cardio, into the repertoire. This will be a great workout, ensuring that you are still effectively targeting muscles whilst also significantly increasing your heart rate. The popularity of hot yoga, will also extend to barre this year, with many classes being held in heated rooms, in order to maximise the effects of the workout upon your muscles.

Aqua workouts
We can expect to see fitness taking to the water this year, with water workouts becoming increasingly popular. Working while in water is a great way to workout as the water provides continuous resistance, which allows you to work your muscles through a larger range of motion. Exercising in water is also great for those with injuries as it is low impact while still being a great workout for the body. Expect to see classes such as HIIT (high intensity interval training) and cycle classes taking in place in water.

Scandi ideas such as ‘hygge’ and ‘lagom’, key trends over the past few years, have increasing influence over our culture and the new buzzword to replace them, will influence us to spend more time this year in the great outdoors. ‘Friluftsliv’, is the concept loosely understood as the importance of connecting with nature and spending time outdoors. This year we can expect to see more people connecting with this notion, forgoing the traditional gym workouts, in favour of getting outside and running, or taking a walk with friends. While hiking has always been popular, we can expect to see increasing numbers of people turn towards walking and exploring the outdoors as great way to get a moderate intensity workout, while also relieving the mind of stress and concerns and allowing it to reconnect with nature.


Frida Harju-Westman is the in-house nutritionist at the health app Lifesum, a Stockholm-based digital health company with over 20 million users. Using tech and psychology, it creates a tailored plan to help people live happier, more balanced lives. Whether the goal is to lose weight, build muscle, or just live a healthier life, Lifesum shows how changing small, everyday habits can transform your life. The app is available on iOS and Android.

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5 exercises you can do without leaving your office desk

For many of us, five days of our week are spent sitting in offices, hunched over computers, with no real opportunity to leave the office to get any exercise. The health risks associated with this lifestyle are widely known and spending our days like this can leave us feeling frustrated and unhealthy.

While there isn’t much you can do about the nature of your office job, there are some exercise you can do which will help strengthen and tone your body without even leaving the office:

Magic Carpet ride
If you spend the day sitting on a sturdy chair, then this this is a good exercise you can do for strengthening your core and arms. Lift your feet onto the chair and sit cross legged (so that your feet are on the seat), suck in your stomach, place your hands on the arm rests and putting your weight on your arms, lift yourself a few inches off the seat. Using your hands, arms and core, hold the position for ten-fifteen seconds before lowering yourself back onto the seat. Rest and repeat five times.

Wrist stretch
Typing away all day can be hard on our wrists, so this is a great stretch to relax them. Simply stretch out one arm at a time, (palm facing down) and use your other hand to pull the fingers of the outstretched arm down for three seconds and then up for three seconds. Then alternate to the other arm.

Leg lifts and curls
If you are standing by the printer waiting for it to finish churning out documents, then this is an ideal opportunity for some leg toning exercises. Lift one leg behind you, or to you side, making sure to keep it straight, hold it for a second and then slowly lower it down before repeating with the other leg. Another leg toning exercise you can do if you are sitting, is to stretch your legs out in front of you and cross them over. Using your core lift them off the floor, press your top leg down against your bottom leg and resist the pressure with your bottom leg. Hold this until your leg muscles feel tired and then repeat placing the other leg on top.

Steady heel raise
This is one you can do either standing or sitting and is great for strengthening calf muscles. Stand or sit up as tall as you can and slowly lift your heels off the floor until you are resting on just the balls of your feet. Hold and then slowly lower, repeat twenty times on each foot and then do a set of 10 on each foot. (You can add more reps as you get stronger)

Neck and shoulder shaper
Aching necks and shoulders are a well-known feature of office life, but there are stretches you can do that not only help relieve this, but also help tone your neck and shoulders! Beginning with your neck –  place your head into your hands and press your palms into your forehead as if to push your head backwards, resist using your neck muscles. Then clasp your hands together behind your head and push your head backwards, using your hands to resist. After you have toned your neck, it’s time to move onto the shoulders. Roll back your shoulders until your shoulder blades are touching, imagining you are holding an object such as a pencil between your shoulder blades, hold for 10 seconds before relaxing and repeating.


Frida Harju-Westman is the in-house nutritionist at the health app Lifesum, a Stockholm-based digital health company with over 20 million users. Using tech and psychology, it creates a tailored plan to help people live happier, more balanced lives. Whether the goal is to lose weight, build muscle, or just live a healthier life, Lifesum shows how changing small, everyday habits can transform your life. The app is available on iOS and Android.

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Healthy eating micro-resolutions for the New Year

Once the New Year starts, many people get caught up in trying to make drastic changes to their lifestyle and end up giving up on their resolutions altogether. But the advise from the company that brought us the health app Lifesum believes that it is better to make micro-resolutions, based around healthy eating and lifestyle, taking steps to change small things which can often lead to better success in the long term.

Sugar detox
When we’re feeling sluggish, we often reach for sugar to give us quick energy boost. However, sugar isn’t good for our health and not only is it addictive, but the quick pick-me-up will only leave you more exhausted once it wears off. 

  • Start with a complete sugar detox for the first couple of days, before reintroducing natural sugars and unrefined carbohydrates for the remainder of the month.
  • After detoxing, be sure to reintroduce the right kinds of sugar, such as those from honey and fruit. However, don’t forget that these are still sugar and the amount that you consume should be monitored.

Drink more water
Keeping hydrated is important in helping organs and cells to function, reducing hunger and helping flush out toxins, so make sure you drink enough.

  • Of course, apps such as Lifesum help you track your water intake and stay hydrated.

Eat more vegetables
Vegetables are an essential part of our diet and are integral to a healthy lifestyle, so make sure you get all the nutrients and vitamins.

  • Instead of snacking on sweet things, try substituting in vegetables. You could have carrot sticks and red pepper with hummus, or try slicing sweet potato and roasting it to make sweet potato toast.

Have a good breakfast
Research shows that missing breakfast results in low blood sugar and slower metabolism. Your breakfast doesn’t have to be elaborate, just make sure you have one – it’s a key part of healthy eating.

  • Eggs are a great breakfast food as they are low in calories but packed with protein, or fruit salad which provides a boost of vitamins and antioxidants.

Clean Eating
Clean eating is a great micro-resolution to make which will dramatically improve your health in the long term. It’s easier to eat clean if you put thought into your food.

  • For lunch, follow the basic equation of protein + carbohydrate + fat. Chicken or salmon are a good choice as they are low in fat but high in protein. Vegetables such as broccoli and asparagus are a good carbohydrate high in vitamins, and an olive oil based sauce easily fulfils your fat requirement.

Frida Harju-Westman is the in-house nutritionist at the health app Lifesum, a Stockholm-based digital health company with over 20 million users. Using tech and psychology, it creates a tailored plan to help people live happier, more balanced lives. Whether the goal is to lose weight, build muscle, or just live a healthier life, Lifesum shows how changing small, everyday habits can transform your life. The app is available on iOS and Android.

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How to eat healthily when you travel

Whether you are flying to the other side of the globe on a holiday, or just a few hours away for a work trip, it is important that you remember to eat properly and healthily during your travels.

Travelling to the airport, going through security and making sure you head to the right gate can be daunting experiences that demand energy. While some of us might rely on the airline’s free meals, with a recent survey by travel search platform HolidayPirates finding that almost 44% of Brits said they would change airlines if free food wasn’t offered, others would prefer to grab food at the airport, reading some water filter pitcher comparisons is perfect for when you travel because it can help you take water with you to hydrate properly during your trip, last time I contacted a campervan hire in Hobart for my trip I made sure to take with me to hydrate. If you´re more on the older side, age wise, and are looking to get rid of wrinkles instead of lose weight, you can easily find anti wirinkle injections to help your skin look younger.

If you are part of the 72%  surveyed who said they would rather get food at the airport, then you should make sure that the food you eat is both delicious and healthy:


Fruit: Eat a lot of vitamins and fibres when travelling. Airports and airplanes are full of germs so stock up on vitamin C with oranges. Watermelon is another good option as it is rich in antioxidants, and it is also full of water. Three to four slices on the day will help you to stay hydrated during the flight. However, don’t overeat fruit as the sugars may increase your overall blood sugar levels, also to keep fruit always fresh and perfect to eat, you can get a cooler like one of the yeti vs ozark just for that purpose, so are free of germs and ready to eat. You also need to make sure to keep active when you get to your destination, there are some on demand workouts that you can use where ever yo are. When going to the beach to travel make sure to check out best stand up paddle board 2017 – for high quality paddle boards.

Dark berries: Opt for the super berries such as blueberries or blackberries, which are full of antioxidants. Research has found that blackcurrants can contain up to eight times the health-boosting antioxidant level of blueberries.

Yogurt: Avoid large portions and fatty foods before or during the flight. Natural yogurt with wholegrain cereals is a good option as it will keep you fuller for longer and at the same time keep the blood sugars balanced. A good alternative that contains more protein is chia pudding and fortunately, some fast food chains started selling this delicious option.


Lean protein and wholemeal bread

Skinless chicken and salmon are a great source of lean protein. If you are getting a sandwich try to find sourdough orrye bread, as they are rich in minerals and good at levelling out blood sugar levels all you need to be careful with is the preparation, you can take a part of the chicken and Cut it Fine in small pieces to put it in the sandwich so you enjoy it more. Avoid fatty extras such as mayonnaise and cheese.

Eggs are not just great sources of protein, eggs are also high in minerals, fats and vitamins that are great for improving the skin’s elasticity. The skin often gets very dry when you are on the flight, and needs an extra boost. Medical News Today has suggested that lutein, found in the yolk of eggs can help improve the hydration and elasticity of skin. This is also one of my favourite options, as you can just keep a cooked egg in a container without needing to refrigerate it. Eggs also contain all the nutrients that you need, keeping you fuller for longer.


Throughout your travel it is vital you eat often but keep to small portions. Healthy salads are good options for dinner. Leafy greens are high in vitamin A and help to protect your skin, limit dryness and irritation of your skin. Try to get as much dark green salad as possible as a foundation to your salad. Spinach, mache or arugula contain a lot of vitamins and minerals. Try to avoid lettuce if it is iceberg lettuce, as it’s a huge environment villain. Look for salads that contain avocados. They are packed with high amounts of fibre, magnesium, and also possess biotin and Omega fatty acids, which help to prevent dry skin and brittle hair and nails. And it is important to add a good source of protein such as chicken, egg, tuna or fish to your dinner. Foods rich in protein can help minimize the effects of sugary snacks you might have after the meal.

If you are going for a salad, then ask for the salad dressing on the side, or opt for vinaigrette rather than a creamy dressing. Also avoid any spicy dressings or side dishes that can contribute to discomfort and bloating.

Snacks & Drinks

De-caffeinated drinks: Staying hydrated when you’re in the air is important. Chose caffeine-free drinks such as herbal teas and water. Rooibos tea is a good alternative, as it is a caffeine-free but still contains good antioxidants that fight free radicals and inflammations. If you feel like something sweeter, drink coconut water or maple water, which are better alternatives to flavored water. They boast vitamins, electrolytes and minerals and low in sugar, which makes the drinks a good alternative to soft drinks.

Health snacks

Healthy nuts: As a healthy snack, it is great to have a handful of nuts such as almonds, walnuts and pistachios. They can aid in improving heart health by reducing cholesterol levels, increasing brain health thanks to the vitamin E, and reducing stress as healthy nuts are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, which helps to lower stress levels. But as they are high in fat, although it is ‘good fat’ I recommend eating around a handful of nuts per day and I would avoid any nuts that are coated as they can be high in salt.

Edemame beans: Instead of crisps get edemame beans. With low levels of sodium, it is also a good source of dietary fibre, protein, iron, magnesium, as well as Vitamin K and magnesium.


Frida Harju is the in-house nutritionist at health app Lifesum.

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Eight reasons the Scandinavians are healthier than you (especially the Norwegians)

At the start of the year, the Swedish health app Lifesum looked at data collected from 300,000 users across nine countries: US, UK, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Russia, to figure out which country, generation and gender was healthiest and why. Looking at the Health Score,  ranking a user’s overall health by looking at their exercise habits, food, and liquid intake.

While the findings showed that all countries consumed less calories at the start of the year and attempted to exercise more, the Norwegians were healthiest – paying close attention to their diets, exercising most and drinking least alcohol in the month of January. Swedes were close to follow in second place, with the Brits coming in third. If you are interested, have a read here to find out more about diets in Nordic countries. So why are the Nordic countries so healthy? 

Plenty of exercise
The results of the research show that Norwegians exercised the most compared to other countries, averaging 8 times a month. This might not sound like a lot, but recent research by Loughborough University found that just exercising at weekends showed significant improvements to overall health. Similarly, even though the number of times might seem low, the duration of exercise in the Nordics is quite significant, especially when hiking is involved, as that usually requires hours.

Plenty of fruit and vegetables
Interestingly, Lifesum’s research found that it was the Brits who consumed the most fruits and vegetables, averaging as many as 105 pieces per month, which still doesn’t amount to the recommended 5 (and now 10 according to Imperial College London!) a day. Where the Nordics might be ahead is in the lower consumption of carbohydrates such as bread, replacing them with protein and vegetables. It is actually relatively easy to make sure that you eat enough, once you make sure half of your plate is filled with fruit and veg.

Little alcohol
Out of the nine surveyed countries, Norwegians drank the least alcohol. Alcohol can be very calorific as they often contain a lot of sugar, which is counterproductive to being healthy. Additionally, drinking alcohol reduces liver function by creating fat around the organ, as well as increasing blood glucose levels.

Little junk food
Out of all the countries, US and UK took the top spots for consuming the most junk food, including pizza and deep-dried foods. Swedes consumed the least junk food, which is one of the aspects which contributed to them being so healthy. In fact, Nordic countries in general prefer to eat food that they prepare from scratch themselves, preferably from fresh and local produce.

Other secrets of Scandi health…

Nordic philosophies
Another reason for why the Nordic countries are as healthy as they are, are the two beliefs that are becoming big in the UK – lagom and friluftsliv. Lagom is an idea of ‘just the right amount’ – meaning that you don’t restrict anything but also don’t have anything in excess, which can be applied to all areas of life. Another belief that contributes to the healthiness of the Nordics is friluftsliv – or a belief that nature is the true home. This is what leads us to spending as much time as possible outside, breathing the fresh air and getting fit in the process.

Nordic diet
The Nordic diet as a whole also contributes to how healthy Norway and Sweden are. The diet is well-balanced, including good sources of healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, healthy bacteria, and complex carbs. Numerous studies have found the Nordic diet to have a positive impact on our overall health, from improving heart health, lowering blood pressure and normalising cholesterol levels. If you are keen to try the Nordic diet for yourself, you can always follow Scandi cooks on Instagram for recipe inspiration, or you can use apps to help you. For example Lifesum recently added new Nordic food plans, supplying you with recipes and ingredient suggestions to fit your health goals, whether those are to lose or gain weight, or simply be healthier.

Breakfast is key
Everyone knows the importance of breakfast, which in the Nordics is healthy and balanced, often consisting of cereal, yoghurt, dried fruits, wholemeal breads, cold meats and cheese. You can expect to see some, or all, of the below on the average breakfast table of a Swedish household: coffee, a hard-boiled egg, a sandwich with ham/cheese/sausage/liver pâté, a bowl of cereal with filmjolk (dairy product similar to yoghurt). Taught the importance of breakfast from a young age, our healthy balanced meals kick start the morning and get the metabolism going.

Organic and locally produced food
Interest in organic food in the Nordics has soared in the recent years. In Sweden, organic sales have already increased by 30% in 2016, showing just how successful organic food is. Additionally, more and more Swedes are opting to grow their own produce in an urban environment, or shopping for foods from local farmers, which makes their diet very healthy

Lifesum is a Stockholm-based digital health company with over 17 million users. Using tech and psychology, it creates a tailored plan to help people live happier, more balanced lives, showing how changing small, everyday habits can transform your life. The app is available on iOS and Android.

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