EXAM TIME
Sunday, May 24, 2015

EXAM TIME


I don't miss those days stuck in my room revising


We’re in the midst of student examination season, and I have previously been asked to offer some nutrition tips for students to aid concentration; I thought I would share them here on the blog because they’re not only applicable to students, they apply to everyone who wants to perform to the best of their ability in whatever they do. Healthy eating habits and good nutrition can have a positive impact on concentration. Take a read if you're interested, otherwise you can wait for the next recipe or personal style post!

A Balanced Diet - Aim for a balanced, varied diet that incorporates all the food groups (proteins, carbohydrates, fats and fruit and vegetables); an eating regime that is balanced and varied will minimise your risk of nutritional deficiency and ensure your body and brain get all the nutrients they need. There is a lot of hype surrounding ‘diets’ based around low carbohydrate and zero fat, but a restrictive diet is the last thing you want to embark on when you are trying to concentrate - your memory, attention and brain function is likely to suffer.
Glucose - Your ability to concentrate is down to your brain having an adequate supply of energy. This energy comes in the form of glucose and if we don’t have enough glucose in the blood, we can begin to feel weak, tired and fuzzy-minded; glucose is the brain’s primary source of fuel. Despite what the media and celebrities say, you should avoid eliminating carbohydrates from your diet, they are not the enemy. Carbohydrates are broken down in to glucose and its utilisation by the brain ensures you maintain good concentration and focus. However, this is not a licence to eat lots of sweets and copious amounts of carbohydrates.  In fact, although sweets and chocolate provide a quick release of energy, and you have probably experienced this sort of energy burst after a Snickers bar or pack of Haribos, the effect is short-lived and you can end up feeling relatively lethargic soon after. It is much better to opt for complex carbohydrates (e.g. pasta, porridge, wholemeal bread).

Caffeine - Similar to sugar, caffeine is often used as a stimulant during exam time. I don’t like coffee but I remember in my first year of university (despite studying Nutrition), I’d sit on my bed revising whilst popping those caffeine-containing pills from my local chemist and slugging back energy drinks. I only had to take them for two days to realise I’d be putting the rest in the bin. Although, like sugar, caffeine can energise the fatigued, the benefits are short-lived, and, in some cases, the effect of caffeine can make you feel jittery and uncomfortable, which is the effect it had on me – not a great feeling when you are studying/working! My advice is not necessarily to cut out the coffee if you are an existing coffee-drinker but instead limit it to one or two cups a day. Dehydration can impair your concentration, so I’d suggest always having a glass or bottle of sugar-free, caffeine-free fluid beside you to sip on regularly.

Healthy Fats - Did you know a large proportion of our brain is made of fat; it therefore stands to reason that we shouldn’t eliminate all fats from our diet. Including oily fish such as salmon, trout, pilchards, fresh tuna and mackerel will help to boost your omega-3 fat intake which is a healthy fat essential for good brain health.

Breakfast - One-third of us regularly miss this meal because of habit or time pressures, but skipping breakfast can have a negative effect on concentration. Breakfast is an opportune time for a nutrition boost following a 7-8 hour fast (whilst your sleeping) and is likely to give you the physical and mental energy you need for your day of revision/work.

Snacking - Don’t be afraid to snack in between meals to keep your energy levels ticking over until the next planned meal, but be careful about the type and amount of snacks you go for and how often. I tended to have a snack between breakfast and lunch and lunch and dinner. Healthy snack options include nuts, low fat yoghurts, oatcakes with a low fat topping such as cottage cheese and of course fruit.

Lifestyle
Finally, I can’t talk about nutrition without talking about lifestyle; they both complement each other. Here are my top lifestyle tips:
§  Get enough sleep so you feel refreshed and revitalised the next day – aim for approximately 7 hours a night
§  Your free time may be more restricted as you approach the exam period, but do allocate some time to being active. You don’t necessarily have to join a gym or take up a sport, a half hour walk around the local area will do wonders for your energy levels and mental performance
§  Try to stay calm and positive while studying: remind yourself why you are doing this – what is the light at the end of the tunnel; draw up a revision plan/schedule so that you are not left having to cram in all your revision towards the end; aim for a work-life balance, don’t abandon your social life, although you may need to curb it somewhat.

Good luck 

Later x

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FOODIES FESTIVAL
Sunday, May 17, 2015

FOODIES FESTIVAL

Of course I went


Apologies for the cliché peace sign hand gesture; I was in festival mood at this weekend’s Birmingham Foodies Festival at Canon Hill Park. I was so grateful for the dry and sunny weather because, in my opinion, it would have really spoiled the event if it had been a wash-out. We walked around in the open air amongst other foodies shuffling from tent to tent, food stall to food stall, and cooking demo to cooking demo enquiring about and, in some cases, sampling the culinary delights.

Believe it or not, I’m not a massive fan of ‘street food’ so I didn't really indulge in many of the dishes on offer; nonetheless I enjoyed the atmosphere, music and the little treats we did snack on. It’s also set in the beautiful surroundings of Canon Hill Park so we took the opportunity to meander around the grounds, idolise the landscaped gardens and soak up the sunshine. The Foodies Festival is not a Birmingham specific event, it is hosted nationally with its next stop being Syon Park on 23-25 May.

In light of the ever-growing health movement inspired by the likes of Delciously Ella and Hemsley & Hemsley, I was surprised not to see a few more healthier, more whole-food options on offer – I did manage to find a few specific health-related vendors scattered amongst the hog roasts, beer stalls and barbecued burgers/sausages though. 

(Sorry-not-sorry for all the photos.)














WHAT I WORE:
I tried to get into the festival spirit with a maxi skirt (Warehouse) and a cropped top (Topshop) and despite the sunshine, it was a little nippy so I donned my Firetrap (House of Fraser) biker jacket.

Later x
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FATTY SALAD
Sunday, May 10, 2015

FATTY SALAD

and new cherry-blossom, salmon coloured booties




For approximately 2-4 weeks, we've been treated to scenic views of pretty cherry blossom tree-lined streets. These same cherry blossoms instigated my recent shoe purchase: a pair of blush pink leather peep-toe booties from Dune.

This weekend I noticed the majority of cherry blossom flowers had fallen from their trees and littered the streets, and my back garden - a clear sign that spring has been and gone and summer temperatures are well on the way; it’s nearly time to really get our skin out girls! *gasp*

As a nutritionist, you’ll know I’m a firm believer that what we put into our bodies reflects not only in our general wellbeing, but in our skin as well. Of course there are no special foods that guarantee you that summery healthy glow and clear complexion, however, I am an advocate of consuming a good portion of healthy fats as part of a varied and balanced diet to support good skin health - not all fats are the enemy! For this reason, I often make my ‘fatty salad’ to take to work for lunch; a quick, easy and tasty salad full of all my favourite healthy fats, which are rich in mono-unsaturated and/or the polyunsaturated omega 3 fats, and does not include freakin' coconut oil might I add: salmon; avocado; nuts (toasted pine nuts and almonds); omega seed mix; and extra-virgin olive oil (I made an olive oil-based dressing using white wine vinegar and dijon mustard). 

There’s no recipe as such; I’d suggest just adding any of the above sources of healthy fats to your own salad, or if you’re not a salad person, just add them to your favourite meals - I sometimes add a hard boiled egg if time allows too! In the words of Madeleine Shaw………..#GetTheGlow





 Later x
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HELLO MAY
Sunday, May 03, 2015

HELLO MAY

Hello asparagus season



Whether you’re a little peckish between meals or fancy a light bite before a night out, if you’re stuck for ideas of what to have as a quick, healthy and tasty snack, don’t forget about a fried egg on a bed of lightly sautéed, crisp and tender asparagus with hand-shaved Parmesan; especially since it’s the British asparagus season. I'm not a fan of pepper but I hear it adds an extra kick.


Later x
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BOHO STYLE
Sunday, April 26, 2015

BOHO STYLE

With the gladiator sandal


TOPSHOP

They were everywhere: SS15 catwalks; Coachella; Instagram; the high street; and now……….a version of the gladiator sandal has graced my shoe closet. I've essentially lived in my over-the-knee suede and leather boots for the past few months but now I've substituted those winter boots for some, boho-style summer boots, at least for the next few months anyway.

I’ve hankered after the mid-calf leather gladiator sandals for a while, but with not being a massive fan of my legs - and these shoes do draw attention to your legs - I vetoed the idea of ever owning a pair. I was also concerned, having inherited my mother’s genes for large calves, that they would be an ill-fit - #girlproblems. Fast-forward to a Sunday night browsing the online stores on my iPAD: 4 days later the delightful sandals were ready for collection at my local Topshop store. If you don’t buy, you can’t try, right? I'm glad I tried because they fit better than expected; I think if they were zip fastening only, I’d have had to return them, however the lace up front means I can adjust the tightness to accommodate my lower leg.

Once the weather really warms up and I make some time for a good ole’ professional leg wax I can hopefully wear them some place other than my back garden!





Later x
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SPIRALIZER REVIEW
Sunday, April 19, 2015

SPIRALIZER REVIEW

One of my new favourite kitchen gadgets


Lurch Spiralizer
Summer is synonymous with sandals, spaghetti-string/strapless tops, sunglasses, sea, sand, spritzers, and yes........salads. It’s the time of year when you substitute your lunch time soups and “comfort-food” dinners for, what some people consider, rabbit food.  I only started eating salads as a main meal (rather than as an accompaniment to a meal) after eating one at a restaurant last year and being somewhat impressed by the textures and flavours that hit my palate – I've enjoyed salads ever since but prior to that I couldn't understand why someone would choose a leafy, mundane salad as their meal of choice. Note: not all salads are made of leaves or mundane!

You may recall from a previous post that I replaced my handheld spiralizer gadget for a larger, safer, sturdier Lurch spiralizer about a month ago. My previous one was very small and fiddly and used to occasionally splice the skin on my fingers as well as the food. Inspired by the super-foodie-bloggers, I upgraded my spiralizer and if I’m honest, I’m quite frustrated I didn't upgrade sooner, especially since it was only £26! After the NutriBullet, this is definitely my favourite kitchen tool. It’s trouble-free to operate and clean, and although you have to make a 32cm x 25cm x 17cm space to store it, I think it allows you to enjoy fruit and vegetables in a more creative and fun way, which could also be an added benefit for fussy children. The gadget has three interchangeable blades (in integrated storage compartments) which allows you to create spirals, spaghetti or slices out of most fruit and vegetables - I've only used one of the blades so far to make courgette spirals, AKA coodles or courgetti.

This weekend I sliced a sirloin steak into strips (with a knife!) and created a coodles stir-fry, adding splashes of balsamic vinegar, pineapple juice and pineapple chunks; I loved the al dente texture of the coodles against the soft, succulent texture of the beef strips. This would work equally well with chicken, prawns, salmon and tofu, I guess.








Later x
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THE WAREHOUSE CAFE
Sunday, April 12, 2015

THE WAREHOUSE CAFE

A Restaurant Review






Why am I smiling in the photo above? Because my belly is full! I was invited by a dear friend for lunch the other day; he’s a vegan and a fellow foodie who gets equally excited about food and eating as I do. We dined at The Warehouse Café, an award-winning, buzzing, but unpretentious, little vegan/vegetarian-friendly (it also has lots of gluten-free options) independent restaurant in the up and coming area of Digbeth, which is in the heart of Birmingham. It's not located in the most prominent of spaces unfortunately; the area is undergoing regeneration and the cafe is nestled away on the first floor of a converted period building (formerly a warehouse) so you could easily miss it if you were not looking for it or aware it even existed. Running a local business myself, I do like to support other local businesses so I'm glad I found out about it, especially as they share some of the same values as me. If you're interested, check out their website to find out more about their commitment to sustainability, from using fresh local produce to using a bicycle courier for deliveries!

There are very few places, in Birmingham anyway, that cater specifically for vegetarians and vegans, and it’s so refreshing to be able to sit down and scan the menu without having to listen to my herbivore friends moaning about the limited choice of dishes on offer or asking the waiter/waitress for a modified vegetarian-friendly dish to what is on the menu. 

THE HEALTH BIT
Most of you will know that I do not follow a strict vegetarian/vegan diet, I enjoy my meat, fish and poultry far too much for that, however, I do adopt a healthy eating regime that incorporates plant-based foods.  Plant-based foods include vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. A plant-based diet has been widely researched and promoted for its health benefits; the general benefits include that it is probably lower in cholesterol and lower in saturated fat, depending on food choices. It may be lower in calories, and if you eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, it may be higher in fibre, which may help lower cholesterol levels and help with heart disease prevention. It may also be lower in sodium (salt).

One of the benefits of eating in vegetarian restaurants, in my opinion, is that you can get inspiration from the menu and try to reproduce some of the delicious dishes at home. I’m definitely going to try making some home-made falafel and lentil daal, that’s for sure, and one can only hope they turn out as tasty as the ones I had at The Warehouse Cafe. I’m always interested to hear about other places like The Warehouse Café so if you know of any around your neck of the woods let me know so I can make an excuse to visit! I guess it’s at this point I should disclaim that I paid for the meal myself and there is no collaboration with the Café.

Falafels for starters

Lentil daal curry and roti bread with a yoghurt dip for mains


Vegan chocolate cake with vegan ice cream for dessert (gluten-free option available)

Later x
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