Archives for posts with tag: healthy alternatives


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.



You can hardly have failed to notice the organic industry exploding over the past few years. I used to have to go out of my way to find organic produce but now the supermarket shelves are packed with it.  The problem is, it’s all so expensive. I don’t know about you, but it’s easy to become sceptical about the health food industry. Sometimes it seems as though food companies are using the word ‘Organic’ just so they can charge more for their products.

Well, I’ve looked into this and

“unlike most food assurance schemes, organic food production is subject to […] an EU Regulation, which has been incorporated into the laws of the United Kingdom.” (

This means that, in general, organic food cannot be grown with artificial fertilisers, herbicides or growth regulators, and livestock feed additives are also prohibited.

Interestingly, there is very little data supporting the health benefits of eating organic food. According to a study reported on the BBC News website last year, organic food is no healthier than conventionally farmed food:

“Overall, there was no discernible difference between the nutritional content, although the organic food was 30% less likely to contain pesticides.” (

In the future, I would hope to see that figure of 30% rise to nearer 100% (wishful thinking?!) but even consuming 30% fewer pesticides seems a good reason to eat organic.  If the alternative is packing my body full of chemicals, hormones and even sewage, I’m going to try to eat organic whenever I can.

The BBC article goes on to point out that the data is inconclusive and that the study was only run over 2 years. We simply do not know the long-term effects of regularly consuming these chemicals and I’d rather not be a human guinea pig! So, whilst I do have a problem with a lot of foods labelled as ‘healthy’* (see my previous blogs on ‘free-from’ products and soya), I strongly believe that organic food is good for us.

However, as much as I would love to buy organic everything, I just can’t afford to. Luckily, I stumbled across this helpful guide to organic food  and The Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen™ and Clean Fifteen™ lists  that show which foods contain the most pesticide residues and which are relatively safe to eat even when non-organic.

Based on what I’ve read so far, I’ll definitely be going organic for

  • Milk
  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Hot peppers
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Bell peppers
  • Blueberries
  • Leafy Greens
  • Courgettes
  • Summer squash

I don’t have all the information, facts and figures, and I suspect there is a long way to go before organic food is truly free from all the horrible pollutants we pump into the earth, but even if turns out that organic food really isn’t any better for our health in the short- or long-term (which I doubt), we know it is better for the environment and sustainable farming. Isn’t the future health of our planet – the world our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will live in – even more important than our own individual health?

I’d like to know your thoughts on this subject, so please get in touch.


* I especially have a problem with margarines, low-fat spreads and other foods labelled as ‘low-fat’. These are generally not good for you and are misleading: low-fat, high-carb diets are detrimental to our health and are now known to cause all sorts of health problems. More on this in a future blog.


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.


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.



Good morning, everyone. I have so many food- and exercise-related things I want to share with you, but I’ve set myself a goal of finishing the synopsis for my children’s novel this week so I’m trying not to get too distracted by other writing, i.e. this blog!

For now, here’s a very quick, very easy sugar-free biscuit recipe.


175g wholemeal spelt flour or gluten-free flour (make sure it doesn’t have soya in it)

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp mixed spice

100g honey

100g coconut oil or sunflower oil

3 handfuls of chopped walnuts

3 handfuls of cocoa nibs

How to make them:

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5.

If you’re using coconut oil, melt it in a pan and then leave it to cool slightly. Sift the flour, baking powder and mixed spice into a bowl. Add the nuts and cocoa nibs. Pour in the sunflower oil or coconut oil and add the honey. Mix it all together with a wooden spoon until well mixed.

Place balls of the mixture onto a greased baking tray and flatten slightly. Bake for 8-12 minutes.



Last night I cooked this delicious chicken and sweet potato curry:


I enjoyed it so much I had to share it with you, and the best thing about it is it’s made with coconut oil (instead of olive oil) and coconut milk. I just can’t get enough of coconut these days. For one thing, it makes everything taste lovely – it’s especially nice for adding flavour to meals and desserts when I’m trying to avoid sugar – but it’s also really really really good for me. Hurrah! It’s always nice when something you love turns out to be good for you.

So here we go with some of the health benefits. Coconut:

  • is antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-parasitic;
  • is packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals and amino acid;
  • is good for bone health;
  • is good for the skin: it helps healing and keeps you looking young;
  • boosts the immune system;
  • helps prevent obesity;
  • improves heart health;
  • has a low glycaemic index;
  • is great for digestion;
  • boosts energy and improves athletic performance.

And that’s just the beginning. For a more exhaustive list of health benefits and for more information on the list above, have a look at one of these sites:

Personally, I’m taking all of this to mean we should eat coconut as often as possible so here are a few ideas of how to get your daily dose:

Unsweetened desiccated coconut: bake with it, add it to porridge or muesli, mix it with nuts and seeds, or try it in hot milk with honey (one of my mum’s favourite snacks);

Dried coconut: excellent for snacking;
Coconut milk: Great for making curries and ice-cream, and if you’re a coffee lover, you might want to try this coconut latte. It’s still on my list of things to try very soon;

Coconut sugar: This is better for you than normal, refined sugar because it is rich in nutrients and has a lower glycaemic index. I’m hoping to use it for the first time to make my Dad’s birthday cake this weekend (hopefully…maybe) so watch this space;

Coconut flour: I haven’t tried baking with this yet, but I’m definitely up for trying it.

And now for the best one of all, Coconut oil!

You may have noticed I use it in quite a few of my baking recipes instead of oil or melted butter. I also use it when cooking soups, baby food, curries and all sorts of other dishes because it is wonderfully aromatic and adds real flavour.

According to several sources, Coconut oil is the healthiest oil in the world, helping with a whole range of health issues including lowering the risk of heart disease and diabetes, aiding in skin repair, preventing osteoporosis, helping sufferers of chronic fatigue, improving metabolism, and possibly even helping treat Alzheimer’s. Again, for a more in-depth look at Coconut oil I’ll let more qualified people do the writing for me. Check out this site

A few other things that might interest you:

I’ve just read this article about oil pulling using coconut oil. I’m not so sure I’m ready for oil pulling yet, but it makes a very interesting read.

Coconut oil can be used to moisturise the skin and condition the hair. Again, not something I’ve tried yet but definitely worth looking in to.

So, to conclude, coconut rocks! Pina colada anyone? 😉


Added 27/02/13: to find out more about how coconut oil may be used to treat Alzheimer’s, see here.


Here’s a delicious recipe to brighten your weekend, courtesy of my friend Jemma Parker. Be warned, it’s a bit too nice!


100g (4 oz) oats
100g (4 oz) cheese, grated
1 carrot, grated
1 apple, grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp melted butter or coconut oil
Pinch of black pepper

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).



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, Check it out for inspiration.



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

In some of my recipes, I have been using alternatives to refined sugar such as fruit and dates. I have a very sweet tooth and I love to bake but I am also aware of what refined sugar can do to the body, so I’m determined to find healthier alternatives that still taste good. I ordered some coconut sugar last week, which has just arrived and I’m excited about trying it out. I’m going to have to wait a while to use it though because I’m on day 1 of my 2-week sugar-free challenge. You can join me and do the challenge yourself: for more information, see The Sugar-Free Challenge page.

If you have any of the following symptoms, it could be that sugar is the culprit:

  • Aching joints
  • Permanently blocked sinuses (you know that feeling when you think you’re going down with a cold, but it never quite happens?)
  • Always tired
  • Lethargic
  • Headaches
  • Itchy skin
  • Dry skin
  • Thrush
  • Bad digestion
  • Fuzzy head
  • Forgetful
  • Depressed
  • Anxious
  • Irritable
  • Prone to mood swings

So, why is refined sugar so bad for us?

There is so much information out there about how sugar damages your health, so I’m going to stick to the basics and leave it you to find out the specifics if you want to. Let’s start off with the obvious.

Sugar is quite bad for you because

  • It leads to tooth decay;
  • It is high in calories and completely lacking in nutrients, which leads to weight gain and malnutrition.

Ok, you probably already knew those 2, but that’s just the start.

Sugar is terrible for you because

  • It supresses the immune system;
  • It promotes inflammation;
  • It speeds up the ageing process;
  • It raises insulin levels. In the short term, this means sudden energy slumps and food cravings. In the long term, this can lead to diabetes;
  • It robs the body of B vitamins, which are basically needed to keep your nervous system, muscles and tissues healthy and functioning. See here for more information.

For more information on the list above, there’s a great article here at

For a truly terrifying list of how sugar damages your health, see 141 Reasons Sugar Ruins Your Health at

Now for the worst part:

The problem with sugar is that it’s just too tasty. No matter how much we want to hate the stuff, it’s very difficult to give up and that’s because sugar is a drug; it is addictive. There is an amazing lecture about this on YouTube called Sugar: The Bitter Truth by Prof. Robert Lustig, which I really recommend you watch if you are at all interested in the subject. Be warned, it’s over an hour long though!

What are the alternatives?

It’s important to remember that alternatives to refined sugar are still high in calories and will still raise insulin levels, so we shouldn’t go crazy and eat loads of them. However, it’s nice to have a sweet treat here and there and the alternatives in the list below contain more vitamins and minerals than refined sugar, meaning they nourish our bodies when we eat them rather than stripping the nutrients from us.

  • Fruit
  • Dates
  • Rapadura sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup

Alternatives to avoid:

In my opinion, sweeteners are even worse than refined sugar and should be avoided at all costs. But that’s a huge subject in itself, so I won’t go into it now.

By now you’re probably beginning to hate me a little for making you feel bad about eating sugar, but please don’t!  I wish I could eat lots of sugar too. As I said in my very first post, “I love food…especially cake. It makes me happy”  and I like nothing more than enjoying yummy food with family and friends. Emotional health is just as important as physical health so I’ve had to find a balance that is reasonable and sustainable: I try to eat healthily most of the time, if I have treats at home I try to use the healthier alternatives, but I’m not going to beat myself up about the odd indulgent meal at a friend’s house or a delicious, sugar-laden pudding at a restaurant. Life is for living and enjoying after all!



It was my Mum’s birthday last week and she came to stay yesterday so I took the opportunity to try out a new birthday cake recipe. It’s a sugar-free carrot cake with mascarpone icing and it’s amazing.

I wasn’t sure how it would turn out or whether Mum would be happy with a sugar-free cake but I have to say it was a hit. Phew!

The cake is sweetened using dates rather than refined sugar. This means that whilst you should still eat it in moderation if you’re trying to watch your weight, it is a lot healthier and richer in nutrients than normal cake. Dates are packed with vitamins and minerals and are high in fibre so help with digestion. For more information on the health benefits of dates, have a look here.


For the cake:

200g (7 oz) organic wholemeal spelt flour

3 tsp baking powder

110g (4 oz) finely chopped dates

75g (3 oz) unsweetened, desiccated coconut

50g (2 oz) finely chopped walnuts

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp mixed spice

110g (4 oz) melted coconut oil or sunflower oil

140g (5 oz) sultanas

2–3 large grated carrots

Zest of 1 orange and 2 tbsp orange juice

2 eggs, beaten

For the mascarpone icing:

225g (8oz) mascarpone

Zest and juice of 1 orange

Honey to drizzle

Walnuts to decorate


How to make it:

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Add the coconut, dates, nuts and spices to the flour and mix them all together. In another bowl, mix the oil, sultanas, grated carrot, orange juice and zest. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. Then add the eggs and mix thoroughly.

Spoon the mixture into a greased cake tin and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Check to see if it is cooked by inserting a knife into the middle. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. Allow the cake to rest in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it onto a wire rack to cool.

Whilst the cake is cooling, make the icing by mixing together the mascarpone, orange juice and zest. Spread over the cake and then drizzle honey over the top and decorate with walnuts if you wish.

We treated ourselves to a slice of this with a freshly ground coffee and it was delicious. A real treat without eating loads of refined sugar and white flour…although, we did devour over half the cake between 2 of us. Ah well, it was a birthday celebration after all.

Happy Birthday, Mum!


Here’s my confession: I love food…especially cake. It makes me happy!

Perhaps you’re thinking that’s not much of a confession but as a dancer and fitness fanatic, it’s sometimes difficult to admit something like that. Well, I’m not going to deny it any longer. I love sweet treats and cakes and breads and yummy, comforting fatty foods. I love to bake; I love to eat; I love reading recipe books and watching The Great British Bake Off and overindulging when I meet up with my friends. I also love being fit and healthy and being in control of my body; I love knowing that what goes into my body is natural and nutritious.

This blog is about all of these things. I will be discovering and sharing healthy but indulgent recipes, talking about my favourite foods, and trying out new ways of exercising and staying healthy.

Please get in touch with your own recipes, healthy eating tips and fitness news. x