Archives for posts with tag: clean

We’re 10 days into February already. Where has that time gone?

How has your ‘Love Yourself’ month been going so far? For me, last week was all about getting back into my writing. This went brilliantly but I was still struggling with my other goal, which was to get back into my normal healthy eating habits. We’d had a flood at my house and ended up living with my parents-in-law for two weeks. It’s incredible how not having my own space to cook, exercise and relax in can have such a massive impact on my mood and eating habits. I love my parents-in-law and they couldn’t have made me feel more welcome, but I’ve never been good in other people’s environments. I’m a home-bird and for some reason, the moment I’m in someone else’s space I start to feel out of control and anxious, which leads to comfort eating. Sigh!

But, good news, we moved back into our house on Friday and I instantly began to feel better. As part of ‘Love Yourself’ February, I’ve decided to promise myself a treat each week. Last week I’d promised I would buy a brand new clean-eating cook book and set aside a couple of hours at the weekend to sit down and read through it. So I did.

I bought the new Deliciously Ella book and made a point of starting right from the beginning and reading through the introduction instead of skipping straight to the recipes. Ella is a beautiful writer and has an inspiring story and the recipes all seem to be very simple and relatively quick to make, which is always a bonus for me. I enjoy cooking, but I don’t have a lot of time in the week so I’m always looking for healthy, but convenient meal ideas. You can find out more about Ella at her website: www.deliciouslyella.com.

I took a few recipes from Ella’s book and also decided on a few of my old favourites that I hadn’t made for a few weeks. Then I got cooking. On Sunday morning, I did the fun baking stuff with my 2-year-old. We made raw chocolate energy balls (known in my household as ‘power balls’) to go in the freezer for when we want something lovely and sweet; we made blueberry muffins from the Deliciously Ella cook book and put those in the freezer too. Then I made a new batch of sweet potato gnocchi. I usually have this in the freezer at all times as a quick meal to give to my daughter. She loves it and once the gnocchi is made it’s even quicker than pasta to cook.

That was a pretty good start, but it got even better. Yesterday morning, I made my favourite homemade baked beans (just chop up and fry onion and garlic, then add tomato puree, passata, a bit of vegetable stock and some beans. I went with cannellini beans and butter beans this time. Yum!). I also made the the quinoa tabbouleh from Deliciously Ella’s cookbook, coconut chicken nuggets from I Quit Sugar and then I made a delicious frittata in the evening. OK, I know that’s a lot of cooking but it only took a couple of hours in the morning and about 30 minutes in the evening and now I have loads of delicious food waiting for me in the fridge. Just knowing I’ve put in all the hard work and have so much good food waiting for me when I need a quick meal makes me feel calmer and more positive about being able to eat healthily throughout the week. It may seem like a chore, but I definitely think it’s worth taking a little time each week to prioritise your health because if you can get that right, then you’ll have so much more energy and motivation in other areas of your life.

x

Ps. I’m sure I’m not alone in finding stories about people who have healed themselves through food intriguing and inspiring. As well as the Deliciouly Ella blog, I have found Against All Grain and I Quit Sugar so helpful and I go back to them time and time again for inspiration. I’d love to get some recommendations from readers if you know of any other good blogs.

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Do you ever have those days (or weeks) when the most you can be bothered to cook is pasta?!  Maybe it’s just me but sometimes even chopping up a salad or making scrambled egg seems like a mission and when I want a quick meal that I know my 1 year old will eat too, pasta seems like an easy option. The problem is, pasta doesn’t really agree with me and the more I read about gluten – and wheat in particular – I don’t think it does anyone good to eat it on a regular basis. If you want to read up about gluten and wheat and the problems it can cause, this Changing Habits blog is a really good place to start.

So I decided to look around for a gluten-free gnocchi recipe and found this one. I tried it tonight and I’m so pleased with it, I just have to share it. If you’re looking for a quick, easy, gluten-free meal, this is brilliant. It took a bit of time to roll each individual gnocchi but once they’re done, you can bung them in the freezer and cook them from frozen in just 5 minutes.

As it says in the recipe, you can serve the gnocchi with your normal pasta sauce or do something a bit more adventurous if you want to.

Let me know how you get on and please share any good sauce recipes you have.

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This one’s for my little sister, Ruth. For weeks we’ve been trying to come up with a sugar-free, syrup-free flapjack recipe that actually holds together and doesn’t just crumble the minute you pick it up.

We’ve tried out a few recipes using honey and whilst some of them have been very successful – like this delicious version by my friend, Sarah – I’ve wanted to go that little bit further and find a recipe that’s honey-free as well. Honey can be really good for you in so many ways, but it’s still a form of sugar and once I get a taste of it I want more and more and more….

So, I’ve come up with a very simple flapjack recipe that is lovely as a snack or as a quick breakfast when you’re pushed for time and, like many of my recipes, it makes a perfect snack for baby Freya too.

You may remember the cheesy flapjack recipe I posted a week or so ago. This recipe is a sweet version of that.

Ingredients:

100g (4 oz) oats

2 large cooking apple, grated

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tbsp melted butter or coconut oil

About 10 prunes, chopped (the softer the prunes, the better)

How to make it:

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl until well mixed. Press into a greased tin so the mixture is about 1″ thick. Bake for around 20 mins until golden on top, remove from oven. Cool slightly before cutting into pieces (makes 14-16 fingers).

You could also experiment by adding other dried fruit and nuts of your choice. It doesn’t matter how much you add as long as you make sure the mixture is moist and sticky when it goes into the oven. I’d suggest adding more apple if you’re using loads of nuts because you don’t want the flapjack becoming too dry once baked.

Let me know how you get on.

x

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I have some good news. Chocolate is good for you. Hurrah!

This doesn’t mean you can go to the shop, stock up on all your favourite chocolate bars and munch your way through them. Chocolate itself (cocoa) is good for you, but what’s added to it is generally bad: refined sugar, preservatives, emulsifiers, flavourings, vegetable fat, whey powder…etc. etc. All of these ingredients plus cocoa might make something that tastes nice, but they don’t do you any favours.

How to enjoy chocolate the healthy way:

You can enjoy chocolate and feel good about it if you find the right stuff. The higher the cocoa content the better because cocoa is packed with antioxidants. It is also high in magnesium: headaches, fatigue, low energy, disrupted sleep, PMS and even cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) are all symptoms of magnesium deficiency. These symptoms might be all too familiar, especially if you’re a woman. Hormones have an impact on levels of magnesium in your body so your magnesium levels might drop around the time of your menstruation every month, which is why you start craving chocolate.

So I think we’re all agreed: we want chocolate; we need chocolate; chocolate is good for us. But how can we get our antioxidants and magnesium without loading sugar, additives and unhealthy fats down us? Here are a few ideas:

  • Only eat dark chocolate and look for the stuff that’s 70% cocoa solids or higher;
  • Check the ingredients. There will still sugar added to most chocolate you buy but the less sugar and fewer ingredients, the better;
  • Cook with or flavour your food with pure, unsweetened cocoa powder;
  • Check these cocoa wafers out from one of my favourite websites: www.changinghabits.com.au.

And now for my top tip of the day: buy yourself some cocoa nibs.

If you want to get all the benefits of chocolate without any sugar at all, you need to get cocoa nibs. I’ve recently discovered them and I think I’m addicted.

Cocoa nibs are cocoa beans that have been roasted, separated from their husks and broken into smaller pieces. For an excellent explanation of all the health benefits of eating cocoa nibs (and there are a lot more than I’ve touched on here), see here.

I’ve only just begun to experiment with cocoa nibs, but here are a few ways to enjoy them:

  • Stir them into your porridge for added crunch;
  • Yogurt, blueberries and cocoa nibs with a bit of organic honey makes an amazing pudding;
  • Bake with them. I haven’t done this yet, but I’ve seen some recipes where you can use cocoa nibs instead of/alongside chocolate chips;
  • Mix cocoa nibs with nuts and sultanas for a healthy snack to pick at throughout the day. The cocoa nibs themselves can be quite bitter when eaten on their own, but as soon as you add the sweetness of a sultana they’re delicious.
  • Add them to ice-cream. OK, so this is a bit of a naughty one but I only did it once and it was a real treat. It inspired me to find some clean eating ice-cream recipes like this one.

Happy chocolate eating, gang. x

Good morning. Happy Valentine’s Day for yesterday!

How did it go? If you were lucky enough to be taken out for dinner last night, did you manage to resist pudding? Don’t worry if not; just count that as your cheat day and treat yourself to a lovely, sugar-free weekend.

We’re nearly at the half way mark and you might be starting to struggle without your normal quick energy fix: you might be feeling tired and grumpy after a long week of work; you might also be suffering from headaches or feel ill and as if you’re going down with something. I know it’s not very pleasant but it’s normal to get withdrawal symptoms like this: sugar is a drug after all. Just remind yourself why you’re doing this and think how good you’ll feel if you manage to resist those sugar-monster urges.

Now that’s enough about sugar! It’s time to stop focussing on what we’re ‘not allowed’ and start looking forward to some really delicious meals for the weekend. If you’re missing pasta, why not try cooking a dish with Spaghetti squash (Cucurbita squash). Bake it in the oven and then scoop the spaghetti-like flesh out and cook with it. I found a fantastic recipe idea here on one of my favourite new blogs, www.ourlifeinfood.com. Check it out for inspiration.

x

 


what we’re not allwingIf you are feeling a bit down in the dumps and need a treat, here’s a delicious snack recipe courtesy of my frined Jemma Parker:

Very moreish cheesy flapjack
I’ve found a delicious meal idea that might just cheer you up, especially if you’re missing your pasta. This recipe uses Spaghetti squash (Cucurbita squash) as a replacement for pasta

If anyone out there is doing The Sugar-Free Challenge with me, how have days 1 and 2 been? Have you craved anything in particular, have you broken any of the rules you set down for yourself?

If you’re anything like me, this isn’t the first time you’ve tried to change your diet for the better. I’m constantly striving to be healthier and fitter. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes my willpower buckles and I let myself down, which is never a nice feeling. However, recently I’ve come to realise that if I monitor myself as I go along, understand where I might be going wrong and then adapt the diet slightly, I won’t end up going crazy and eating everything in sight. This isn’t cheating; it’s just identifying what works for me.

On this latest sugar-free challenge I had promised myself a slice of soda bread with honey every other day. Today, day 2, was ‘soda bread and honey day’, but guess what? I didn’t just stop at one slice: I had a few slices and then I started getting cravings for all sorts of other sugary carbs. You’ll be glad to hear I didn’t give in to these cravings, but it made me realise that if I’m going to succeed on this 14 day plan (and beyond) I’ll have to completely cut out the soda bread and honey. If I don’t start it, I’m fine but once I start there’s no way I can just stop at one slice.

I guess what I’m trying to say is be kind to yourself. Don’t instantly think you’ve failed just because you slipped up once. Learn from it, adapt and keep on going until you get the results you want.

I’d love to hear from anyone who’s taken up the challenge so please get in touch.

Oh, and Happy Pancake Day! I hope you’re all enjoying your sugar-free pancakes. 😉

x

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This is the easiest recipe ever. It took me 5 minutes to make and then 30 minutes in the oven. There are other more exciting versions of this recipe all over the internet so if you fancy being a bit adventurous, have a look around, but this is a good one to make when you have nothing but the basics in the house.

Ingredients:

350g (12 oz) organic wholemeal spelt flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp salt

½ pint milk (either fresh or slightly gone off)

Juice of ½ a lemon

How to make it:

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

If you’re using gone off milk, you don’t need the lemon. If you’re using fresh milk, add the lemon juice to make it curdle. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl, add the salt and mix it all together. Make a well in the middle and add the milk. Quickly mix it all together and knead it briefly. Place it on a greased and floured baking tray and cook for 30 minutes.

To test whether or not it’s cooked, turn the loaf upside down and tap it on the bottom. If it makes a hollow sound, it’s done. Cool it on a wire rack.

Why I love it:

I love making my own soda bread because it’s quick and easy, because I know exactly what’s in it and because, unlike normal bread, it isn’t made with yeast.

So what’s the problem with yeast?

We all have a certain amount of yeast in our digestive systems but when we eat too much processed food, refined sugar and bread this yeast (Candida albicans) can get out of control and cause us all sorts of health problems such as digestive problems, bloating, aching joints, fatigue, headaches and thrush to name just a few. Taking a course of antibiotics can also cause an overgrowth of Candida albicans.

Doctors will often deny any link between yeast overgrowth and health problems but interestingly, patients with certain chronic ailments such as chronic fatigue syndrome are often successfully treated by cutting yeast out of their diet. It’s worth doing your own research into this but I certainly find I feel better if I cut yeast and sugar out of my diet: I feel less lethargic and sluggish and my digestive system feels a lot healthier.

If you want to find out more, here are some interesting articles to start you off:

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I am not a saint when it comes to food. I really wish I was. I wish I had a little bit less of a sweet tooth and a-lot-a-bit more self-control, but I don’t. I eat well most of the time and I mostly keep my sugar cravings at bay, but every now and then my love of sweet stuff takes over and my inner sugar monster rears its ugly head.

Not surprisingly, this is exactly what happened over Christmas. Like many people, I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and when I began to feel a bit ill, I took a break for half an hour and then started again. Yuk! Why do I do these things to myself?

The outcome was, by the end of December I was extremely grumpy, quite a lot blobbier than I would have liked and every joint in my body was stiff and aching. I knew exactly what I needed to do. I needed to go clean and get off the sugar and the bread and the rich foods….and yet, somehow I just couldn’t do it. I’d wake up each morning full of good intentions and by bedtime I was feeling guilty, grumpy and full of chocolate once again.

I needed a little help to break this unhealthy cycle and get me back to healthy eating again. So I signed up to Mission Clean & Lean, an online detox programme set up by Fern Whittaker and Jo Parry. Ordinarily, I don’t think I would have signed up for something like this, but Jo Parry is an international fitness presenter whose classes I’ve enjoyed at Fitness Fiestas for many years so I was confident it would be good.

I wasn’t disappointed. The programme started on 7th January and ran for 21 days. A couple of days before the diet started, I was added to a private Facebook group which would become my social support network for the next 21 days. Each day Fern and Jo would post the food plan and the 10 minute exercise video (to be done twice) for the next day. The rules were different each day: some days we would be allowed a small snack as well as our meals, other days it was just 3 clean meals, whilst other days we were asked to fast, which was not as terrifying or painful as I’d expected it to be. There were various fitness tests to be completed throughout the week to chart our progress, and weight and measurements to be taken every Monday.

The whole programme is excellently designed to keep participants interested and motivated, and the emphasis is on enjoying food and exercise rather than starving yourself.

But for me the real genius of Mission Clean & Lean is the Facebook group which, I have to admit, became a bit of an obsession. I found myself checking the group every few minutes to see if anyone had posted anything new: a picture of their dinner perhaps, or a new recipe idea, maybe even admittance that they’d had a few too many cashew nuts that day! As time went by I felt as if I got to know the other people on the diet, even though I’d never met them, and that is the beauty of Mission Clean & Lean because the Facebook group keeps you interested and focussed and makes you feel supported and motivated.

I can honestly say there isn’t a single person who wouldn’t benefit from signing up to Mission Clean & Lean. Whether you want to lose weight, kick start a new fitness regime, or simply feel happier and healthier in yourself regardless of size and body shape, this is a great programme. My goals going into the diet were to detox and break my sugar addiction, and maybe lose that last, stubborn bit of baby weight. I succeeded.

Thank you Fern and Jo. And thanks to all the other Clean & Leaners for your support. x