January retake please!

Retake 2016??

So just realised it’s the last day of January 2016, the month has flown by! I set myself some small challenges for January instead of New Year resolutions and guess what; I failed. Yep most of them just didn’t happen. And you know what? It’s OK. Remember my mantra for 2016 is better not perfect. I could go really hard on myself but I will just create a negative mind set and that’s not going to help with my long term goals. So the positives:

I actually exercised 5 times a week consistently. Whether it was a HIIT workout in my underwear in the tiny flat or a 4k run. I did it, it happened. Sometimes it wasn’t perfect and sometimes it was hard but I did it!

I’m still refined sugar free apart from date night but I’m going to work on this for 2016.

I have become more conscious of my eating habits and now recognise when I’m in dodgy territory. Unfortunately this revelation only came about last night and the saying “if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail” comes to mind. So this leads me on to the negatives of January.

Inspiration 1
Picture from Pinterest

The blow out that I had over New Years and after really left me struggling to get back on track with my eating. I just kept craving sugar and now I was exercising more so I wanted food all the time! Disaster! So I ended filling up on a lot of toast. Commercial bread, although not the worst snack isn’t really ideal! I need to invest the time in preparing healthy snacks for long days or days with social commitments after work.

My skin has started to suffer from my poor food choices and this was one of the reasons I gave up sugar in the first place. I see the odd spot starting to reappear and it is definitely linked to what foods I’m eating. This more so than anything is my wake up call to do a retake on 2016!

So my goal for February, simply to make more real foods. I’m going to start bringing my lunch to work again. Lettuce wraps, salads and soups are all on my hit list! If anyone has some lunch ideas feel free to share with me, please! Looking forward to all your healthy suggestions!

Stay healthy X

Mixed Bean Stew

Just a quick recipe post today. This is my absolute favourite dinner, I also call it nothing left in the fridge as the ingredients are all cupboards staples. It is so easy to make and is full of fibre and protein. As I’m a vegetarian there is no meat in this but you can add some shredded chicken or some smoked rashers!

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Ingredients

400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed

400g tin of butterbeans/mixed beans, drained and rinsed

500g carton of passata

½ onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic

1 tsp smoked paprika

Some dried chilli flakes (I like it spicy but add to your taste!)

½ cup of frozen vegetables (peas, mixed vegetables, broccoli)

½ cup tinned sweetcorn

1 tbsp coconut oil

Couscous to serve

Method

Heat the oil in the pan. Add in chilli, garlic and onion and fry till soft and translucent. Add the spices and fry for another minute or two. Now add the frozen vegetables, tins of beans and the passata.

While you are bringing your stew to the boil get your couscous ready in a large bowl. Add some turmeric and raisins for flavour and taste. Set the couscous aside and reduce the stew to a simmer. Now add your tinned sweetcorn.  Let the whole pot simmer away for 5 minutes.

Season and serve on a bed of couscous with the addition of some more chilli flakes if you like!

Stay sugar free – some tips!

I always struggle for good tips when trying to stay sugar free here are some of my tips plus a few extra from blogs or websites I have read.

My number one tip is to always have breakfast. This kick starts your metabolism and fuels you for the day. I always have porridge because there is so many options, overnight oats, topped with granola, soaked with chia, topped with fruit and get one of your five a day. If you’re not a morning person why not invest in a cute mason jar from and bring it to work? This will stop you from reaching for the sugary pastry at 11am. And for a protein hit if you work out in the morning or just really like eggs, egg in a cup with some herbs and coconut oil is ideal. If that’s a bit messy for the bus into town try a wholemeal pita, lightly toasted with scramble eggs, wrap in tinfoil and munch on the go.

So this brings me onto lunch and dinner. Here I try to eat whole foods that nourish the body. Lots of leafy green vegetables and some lean protein. By eating whole foods you cut out the added sugars, artificial colours and preservatives. So instead of buying the jar of pasta sauce and really easy alternative is to use a carton of passata with two tablespoons of tomato puree to create your own sauce. Add in herbs, spices, garlic and onions to create your own unique blend. If you are having snacks instead of the orange juice just eat an orange, the fibre will keep you fuller for longer, you get a nutrient boost and it’s cheaper.

YES you can have chocolate! Just make sure its 85% cacao. I have a packet of raw cacao (found in most health food shops) and I use it for everything, healthy hot chocolate, chocolate Greek yogurt, chocolate overnight oats and chai chocolate pudding for dessert or breakfast! Also have come up with a super snack if you are craving something sweet at night. Try a tablespoon of coconut oil mixed with some cacao powder. Spread this on toast, it’s almost like Nutella but a whole lot healthier.

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My go to ingredient for that healthy chocolate hit!

Tip number four, always always read the food label. Sugar has 61 alternative names when used on a food label, now you don’t need to know them all (it’s not a test!). Generally speaking anything over 20g of sugar per 100g of produce is high, under 5g is quite low. The first 4-5g of dairy products tends to be lactose, which is a natural sugar. Try to avoid foods that have sugar in the first four or five ingredients. Similarly low fat foods can be filled with sugar, by removing fat you remove some of the taste so to make it tasty again companies add in more sugar. Just beware!

Don’t drink your sugar so the likes of soft drinks, sports drinks and flavoured/sugared beverages have to go. Some hot chocolate is up to 40% sugar in content and some commercial coffees shops add staggering amounts of sugar. So try to stick to water, flavour it with some lemon, lime or frozen berries. These are really cheap from Lidl and are a much healthier alternative.

Lastly, have a special treat once in a while. So it’s your best friends birthday eat the cake! Or keep that luxury ice-cream for a weekend. I find it easier and more sustainable if I know I can have the occasional treat. We always have a cheat meal it usually doubles up as date night and it definitely helps to keep me on track for the week.

So there is my tips. Have you any? What keeps you motivated or what’s your favourite sugar free treat?

Stay healthy X

Why I Quit Sugar

Hi everybody,

How is the post Christmas detox going? I realise that many of you have started reading the blog and some may know me but some may not. So this is a more personal look at why I gave up sugar. I’ve started with my own reasons and then I’ve tried to look at the science in a none laboratory genius, kind of way!

So for my personal reasons and I think most girls can relate to this one. Despite being generally fit, running and playing rugby I always had a pouchy belly! Despite eating healthy but bingeing on chocolates, jellies and pastries I couldn’t shift it. A couple of summers ago I cut out carbs, and upped my cardio and I never lost a kilo! I just became more tired, grouchy because I was hungry all the time. So in New Zealand I was reading a lot about how sugar just contributes to belly fat and thought sure I’ll just cut down on the biscuits and see how it goes. From here I did research and read all the food labels of food I was buying and slowly realised sugar is added to almost all processed foods. This spurred me on to cut out processed foods too. If it had more than five ingredients, you can’t pronounce it or you can’t give a decent attempt to make it; simply don’t eat it. Now I’m not saying I have a six pack but I’ve definitely noticed a difference in my body shape since ditching the sugar.

Reason number two is my skin. I have always had acne problems with my skin and no matter what I tried from expensive creams to crazy home remedies (sudocream and toothpaste come to mind!) it just never cleared. I was at breaking point. Who wants to be a 27 year old with acne? So after quitting sugar my skin got slowly better, my blemishes healed and new spots stopped appearing. Now I still get the odd spot but it’s usually after a sugar treat. And this just reminds me to cut out the sugar again.

So there is some of my personal reason for quitting sugar now for a bit of science. I’ll try to explain why sugar is bad for you and hopefully this will help you to kick the habit. So maybe you know glucose is the fuel of every cell in the body? Maybe you don’t but that’s ok. Glucose feeds every cell in the body so obviously you need some sources of this in your diet. Now how do you get glucose? It’s a sugar that gets broken down in the digestive tract and then gets sent to the cells, it is found in almost all foods. Natural sources are fruit and vegetables but there are many others.

An easy example of a sugar is table sugar. Now 50% of table sugar is glucose and 50% is fructose. Similarly some of the healthy alternatives like cane sugar have the same composition as refined sugar. So if 50% of the sugar is broken down to glucose, what does fructose do? Studies show that fructose is fundamentally different to glucose. Fructose is metabolised in the liver. Most people can digest the natural fructose, like those found in fruit just fine. Fibre actually slows down the absorption of fructose and so small amounts reach the liver and are processed. However it is when fructose is processed, the fibre and nutrients removed that create problems. But large amounts like those found in high fructose corn syrup, refined sugars and sweetened drinks overwhelm the liver. Once broken down fructose is deposited as fat around your belly, the more fructose the more fat deposits. This fat also disturbs the hormones for regulating hunger. So you end up fatter and hungrier.

This is just the beginning of the research on sugar and it effects in the body. It has been linked to type 2 diabetes, cardio vascular disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. As more research comes out the link between this sugar and ill-health will become clearer but for now maybe think of trying to reduce the sugar in your tea or leaving that muffin to a Friday treat instead?

Stay healthy X

Healthy Snacks

So I was reading a post from mess2success about how Day 3 of a challenge is often where you fail. And I completely agree. So if you didn’t eat as healthy as you would have liked this week start again tomorrow. My mantra for the new year is to aim to be better not perfect. So instead of reaching for the muffin or chocolate at 3pm how about some healthy snacks?

My favourite snacks usually include fruit or vegetables. I try to dress them up and making it interesting because, let’s be honest celery isn’t sexy!

1 Veggies and hummus: So this is pretty simple one chop carrots or other veggies the night before (I love raw broccoli but its not to everyone’s taste!)  and store in the fridge at work.

2 Veggies and curried yogurt: I love this dip! James thought I was a lunatic making it during the week but wasn’t complaining at the end result. I use unsweetened Greek yogurt from Aldi. You can mix it up with smoked paprika or chilli if you are not a curry fan.

3 Frozen berries and Greek yogurt: Another Aldi purchase, I add cinnamon into the yogurt and if I want a chocolate hit I’ll add in a teaspoon of raw cacao powder!

4 Apple and peanut butter: I use Meridian peanut butter as its got no nasties in it. If I’m eating at work I’ll chop up the apple, add two tablespoons of peanut butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon. At home its straight from the jar onto the apple, yum!

5 Banana and peanut butter: For a more substantial or pre-gym snack you can’t go wrong with peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

So instead of filling up on sugary nutritionally void food why not spend five minutes the night before and prepare some healthy snacks for the next day. Would love to hear your favourites or variations! As always,

Stay healthy X

Week Three

Hi Everybody,

So this week has been a disaster! We went for Jo Burger on Wednesday night and blew our date night budget, James got 500g of beef to keep him happy. I went half the cow and a modest 250g burger. Not so bad as its all homemade we didn’t use sauce with the sweet potato fries so that saved us a bit on the sugar stakes!

We ventured to our local Tesco in search of some dessert and ended up with two chocolate oozy puddings you do in the microwave. I normally steer clear of these but its date night! I can honestly say I didn’t enjoy mine at all. Maybe it was too dry but I’m putting it down to getting used to no sugar. I had found a recipe for chai chia breakfast pudding, trying saying that quickly, and decided to try it on Thursday morning. So preparing the seeds on Wednesday night I was getting pretty excited till the recipe said “cut open the teabag and pour in the contents”. Hmmmmm seemed pretty strange but I’m all for trying new recipes. The next morning I was pure excited, took out the bowl of prepared chia and tucked straight in. Well, it was terrible! I ate it all because I hate waste but its definitely one recipe I wont be posting!

We had Kiwi friends staying with us from Thursday to Sunday and lets say they weren’t the only ones on holiday! So they arrived and despite my best efforts James really didn’t do well. He had Burger King on Friday night after work, I know shocker! But he is a big guy and takes some feeding so when we are not organised it’s quantity over quality with him. I managed a little better having made a batch of spicy bean stew and lentils last week and just defrosted it as I needed it.

Holland and Barrett had a sale on last week so got quinoa and some Meridian peanut butter for just over €10. Green apples and peanut butter are one of my favourite snacks. I love adding peanut butter to almost anything! Quinoa is really easy as it can be eaten savoury or sweet and cooks in about 15 minutes. I cooked up a huge batch of this on Friday and kept it in the fridge over the weekend. Quinoa is super handy to replace carbohydrates in a meal and its an essential protein. Cooked quinoa, chia and lentils can all be kept in the fridge for up to a week. So handy when you need to throw a lunch box meal together. I have a real problem around 3-4pm when I feel I cannot funcion any more! Snacking is the only way to get through this. As your body gets used to life without sugar it takes time for your appetite to regulate itself and you can feel hypoglycemic particularly in the afternoon. In addition to apple and peanut butter, greek yogurt and frozen berries, rice cakes and peanut butter, hard boiled eggs or raw veg and hummus can fill the void.

So almost back to normal now, James has two exams left and I’m kept busy with work right up till Christmas Eve. I absolutely adore mince pies and it’s the one food I look forward to every Christmas. So I have been doing some research on sugar free Christmas treats so I’ll hopefully have some recipes to share next week. In the mean time stay healthy X

 

 

Week Two

Hi everybody,

So most of you students will know; it’s exam time! So the next couple of weeks are going to be a real challenge for James! The emergency supply of chocolate has disappeared again but replaced with cacao powder this time. I’m going to try make some some raw energy balls or snacks to keep him sugar free.

The biggest challenge with living healthy on a budget is the initial cost. Buying kitchen equipment, ingredients and spices is quite expensive. I find most health food cookbooks require a food processor so I will definitely looking out for one of those in the January sales.

Unfortunately I’ve had a terrible week. The roster changed so worked two extra days. Then crashed my bike on Sunday so was feeling very sorry for myself. Hot chocolate fixes everything right? So we decided to experiment with chocolate whey powder to make them! The end result can only be described as chocolate smelling cottage cheese! This lead to a short cycle to the garage down the road and a chocolate chip cookie binge.

But back on track we’ve had a relatively sugar free healthy week! I made my flourless pancakes as a treat breakfast this week and I’ll post the recipe too. Let me know how your week went, how do you cope with exams or study?

Till next week, stay healthy X