Sunday, June 19, 2016
How about grow your own
Frustratingly, there is, to some extent, a lack of consensus when it comes to health claims - particularly relating to diet - among those working in the food and nutrition world (i.e. nutritionists, nutritional therapists, dietitians, food bloggers); it’s not surprising the public feel confused rather than empowered about what they should be eating (“should I be eating more coconut oil and butter or what?”, I hear people scream”); however, where there does appear to be some accord is with the notion that home-cooked meals are far superior to convenience ready-meals (although in my opinion it depends what and how you are cooking) in terms of consuming a healthy, wholesome, nutritious diet.
I encourage my clients to experiment in the kitchen with making their own meals and I personally enjoy looking for recipe ideas in books and on the web/blogs, but one of the things I’d also like to start getting into is growing my own - growing some of my own food! Having lived in an apartment for many years, there was never really any inclination to start growing my own food, but with now having a garden, I feel there’s room to introduce another pastime to my list.
I went to BBC Gardeners World Live at the Birmingham NEC this weekend in search of some inspiration for what I could grow easily in my back garden. The VegTrug Grow Your Own Stage described how we could make even the smallest spaces productive and tasty.
Do you home grow any of your ingredients?
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Umbrellas to the ready!
They call it a typical British Summer, and it arrived with a vengeance this week bringing relentless torrential rainfall, roaring thunder storms and uncomfortably muggy weather together with intermittent spells of very warm sunshine. It’s playing havoc with my decision-making when it comes to choosing an outfit, but I’m not going to be defeated by the British summertime; I refuse to resort back to my autumn/winter wardrobe and transitional pieces for the sake of a miserable weather forecast. It’s annoying enough that I can only wear my sandals and sleeveless tops for a few months of the year, without having to swap back to jumpers and closed-toe shoes during the month of June. So, when the meteorological conditions allow (i.e. it’s not overly cold or pouring with rain), I don my summer attire, hope for the best and ensure I’m carrying the essential transitional accessories: sunglasses and a large umbrella – such a juxtaposition!
Wearing: Sandals, Aldo; Shirt, Warehouse; Jeans, Zara; Bag, Mulberry
Saturday, June 04, 2016
I practise what I preach
Bicester’s Le Pain Quotidien produced the best avocado on sour-dough toast I've tried in a while, and I've put in a plea for Birmingham to find a spot on their high street for this delightful little restaurant.
I love dining out, but sometimes I get to a point during the week whereby I start looking for excuses to say no to restaurant invites (and don't you find the invites tend to come in thick and fast during the summer months?). I usually try to reserve eating out to one or twice a week, however, occasionally circumstances are such that I find myself sitting in yet another restaurant, perusing another menu for a celebratory meal with family or friends, or for a business meeting with colleagues, neither of which you can really say no to.
Eating out regularly can potentially play havoc with your weight loss and healthy eating efforts but it doesn't have to. Below I have noted down some of the strategies I personally use when I’m trying to control my calorie intake and maintain a healthy eating regime whilst eating out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the 80/20 balanced eating mantra (eating ‘healthy’, nutrient dense food 80% of the time and reserving the chocolate, dessert and alcohol to approximately 20% of the time) but when the balance gets shifted in the wrong direction it’s important to pull in the reins to keep yourself on track, and you can do this even if your life dictates that you have to eat out regularly
TOP TIPS FOR EATING OUT......when you eat out regularly
*DON’T GO HUNGRY – You've heard the old adage, ‘don’t go shopping when you’re hungry’, but I think it’s wise not to go to a restaurant over-hungry either, especially if you are trying to control and be sensible with your food choices. I’m not suggesting you fill up on a meal before you go, but you could take the edge off your appetite by having a small mug of vegetable soup or some fruit and yoghurt before you leave the house; by doing this you may be less tempted by the bread basket and calorie dense stodgy menu options, and unlikely to over-consume and eat large portions
*SKIP THE EXTRAS – If you’re already having a starter and main course, it’s fairly unquestionable to suggest that you don’t need the extras. Consider saying no to the bread basket with its accompanying liberal butter/oil portion, and if it’s going to be your third or fourth pudding of the week, it might be an idea to say no to the dessert menu as well
*DOWNSIZE – many restaurant menus now feature the option to have a smaller serving size of some of their meals. This is a welcomed initiative in my opinion given our exposure to large food portions. Italian is one of my favourite cuisines and I do love a good penne carbonara, but now I tend to opt for the half portion of this creamy, calorie-dense dish and bulk out the rest of the meal with vegetables/salad. If half portions are not available, consider sharing a large meal with a friend/colleague or ask for a doggy bag and have the leftovers for another meal (although this will depend on the dish)
*BE IN CONTROL – Don’t be afraid to engage with the waiter/waitress serving you. Ask about how dishes are cooked and served: opt for grilled or baked food rather than fried where possible; request that vegetables are steamed without butter; ask for sauces and gravies and salad dressings (be mindful that seemingly 'safe' salads can contain calorie-laden dressings) to go on the side so that you can control the amount you put on your food
*SMART SWOPS – a lot of people love fries/chips as a side to their main meals, but if you have been eating out regularly, peruse the ‘sides’ menu to see whether there is a lower calorie alternative available. Ask for extra vegetables or salad instead, or opt for potato sides that haven’t been fried such as sweet potato mash (without butter) or baked sweet potato wedges, which are both quite popular on menus now
*BE DRINK AWARE – yes the obvious, it’s best to restrict on alcohol calories when you've perhaps been indulging already earlier in the week, but don’t forget the non-alcoholic calories such as the regular soda drinks and those exceptionally large glasses of fruit juice they serve. Consider soda water with a dash of lime or blackcurrant and if you can’t resist the wine, you could go for a wine spritzer instead.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
From Bean to Bar
By this time last weekend, I had gnawed my way through a couple of bars of chocolate within 24 hours; but these were not any chocolate bars……..these were chocolate bars lovingly hand-made by my dear friend Asma, who I met for the first time at one of my Birmingham Wellness Meetups just under 12 months ago. Last weekend saw Asma launch her new chocolate confectionary brand, Maza Chocolate, at the Good Food Show and I was honoured and excited to go along and support her.
I don’t know many people, particularly women, who do not love chocolate, so already she’s on to a good thing business wise, right? Added to that, she’s created a chocolate bar that will tick the boxes of many health and wellness enthusiasts, and has distinguished herself from many other chocolate brands by hand-producing her chocolate from bean to bar using traditional methods (therefore for all the ‘raw’ foodies, Maza is not raw - I don’t get the whole raw movement anyway) which true chocolate enthusiasts and connoisseurs will (and did at the Show) appreciate. The beans are from Madagascar, Columbia and the Dominican Republic.
Maza Chocolate – the name Maza being derived from the Persian word ‘indulgent’ – is 70% dark chocolate. I’ll be honest, I love myself a good nibble of milk chocolate from time to time, especially that extra sweet indulgence they call pralines, but we know that it’s perhaps better to opt for chocolate which contains a higher percentage of cocoa solids, such as 70% or above, because of its higher flavonol content (there is an accumulating body of evidence to show that the flavonol component of dark chocolate may have potential benefits for heart health).
Maza can be a chocolate treat for vegans too because it’s dairy free; yes no milk or milk derivatives, and in fact the bars contain no more than 5 ingredients, and they’re all ingredients you recognise and can pronounce! There are 3 varieties: plain; almond butter and coconut. The almond butter is definitely my favourite; the combination of the cacao, crushed almonds (not essences) and sea salt really tickles my palate (in a good way!) and takes the edge off that bitterness that can often put people, like me, off dark chocolate.
The other interesting and unique ingredient in Maza chocolate is the Palmyra nectar, which is used as an alternative to table sugar and is the crystallised nectar collected from the flower of the Palmyra palm, grown in Sri Lanka and India; I’m not sure whether it is the Palmyra that gives the chocolate its smooth, slightly creamy and luxurious feel in the mouth. Admittedly, I had never heard of Palmyra before and I’m looking forward to researching more about it, especially it’s nutritional value which early reports suggest is relatively superior to other sugar alternatives. It’s important to note that Palmyra is not a non-caloric sweetener and is still a sugar so my advice would be the same as for all dark chocolate lovers: indulge in 'moderation'.
As a final word, can I just take a minute to draw your attention to the beautiful and sophisticated packaging of Maza. So chic and so classy, just like my friend Asma, who’s a solicitor following her passion for good food - Go Girl!
Disclaimer: My friend is the owner of Maza chocolate and I did take a few bars (with her consent of course) from the exhibition stand for this post, and to eat on the train ride home, but all views are my own.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
SO SHE DID!
For today’s post I’m just leaving you with one of many of my favourite inspirational quotes. Why? Chiefly, because I just haven’t had the time or inclination to think up or create a blog-worthy post, however, being the pedantic and slightly compulsive person that I am, I felt obligated to commit to my Sunday posting ritual. The other reason for this post is, having spent the weekend at the BBC Eat Well Show at London’s Excel supporting my friend with exhibiting and launching her new confectionary product, MazaChocolate, I've felt inspired by all the women (AKA wellness entrepreneurs) I have met at the event who have followed their passion and built a business that they thrive on………… simply because they believed they could! Join me in taking the time to think about what you would like, and believe you can achieve, over the next 7 days!
Sunday, May 15, 2016
Whilst basking in the sunshine
Take a tour around my kitchen and you’ll notice some cupboard/fridge/freezer staples that could quite possibly throw me into all sorts of culinary turmoil if I suddenly realised I had run out of them. One of those staple foods is frozen banana; I always ensure that I have a small batch of frozen banana in the freezer ready for those planned or impulse moments when I have an appetite for some banana ice cream, a post-workout protein smoothie or a thick creamy milkshake. Compared to unfrozen banana, the frozen stuff makes for a really creamy and chilled end product, and let’s not forget that freezing makes good use of any near-black/overripe bananas (heaven forbid you throw away your black speckled bananas!), although I tend to just take two from whatever bunch I buy and chop them up into freezer bags straight away.
Apologies in advance to those of you who dislike milk and creamy textures - this is not a recipe post for you. I, on the other hand, love milky/creamy consistencies: pina colada or Baileys would be my alcoholic beverage of choice, ice-cream would be my preferred accompaniment to a dessert and, admittedly, a McDonalds milkshake always hits the spot on the rare occasion I have one!
I thought I’d post this simple milkshake because in the UK we have been fortunate enough to experience a few days of warm sunshine, which has seen me basking in the sunshine under the cherry blossom tree slurping on a variety of chilled and refreshing drinks (trying to dodge the blossoms floating into my drink); one of which is this banana and cashew milkshake, which tastes even better through a stripy coloured straw.
WHAT I USED (MAKES 1)
1.5 frozen bananas
150mls milk (I used cows milk but soya milk and nut milks work equally well)
2 Tbsp Plain natural yoghurt
1 teaspoon honey
25mls Orange juice
A handful of cashews
WHAT I DID
I use one of my other kitchen staples: the NutriBullet and blended all the ingredients together until smooth.
Sunday, May 08, 2016
Comfy shoes and DSLR in tow
The mere suggestion of visiting another city, whether it be within your home country or abroad, always conjures up feelings of excitement and adventure. We are always quick to want to explore other destinations but often neglect what is potentially the best place on Earth – home! So, when I received details about a Birmingham Instagram Meetup ( I run a Birmingham WellnessMeetup for health enthusiasts) - a Meetup organised for the people of Birmingham to spend some time exploring the City and snapping Kodak moments along the way – I decided to sign up and go along; it’s just nice to be reminded of and appreciate what your own town has to offer sometimes.
Comfy shoes and the DSLR and iPhone in tow, we walked around Brindley Place, a large mixed-use development in the Westside district of Birmingham. It was such a lovely opportunity to meet new people, and to clock up a few extra steps on the fitness monitor.