Thursday, 13 December 2012

Lap up the love!

Yuletide greetings readers!

Having put up my tree, eaten some mince pies and done half my christmas shopping and done my gym workout to a soundtrack of wham's 'Last Christmas' and 'Santa Baby' I'm now feeling properly festive.

I hope you are too, especially because Christmas can be a such a positive time. It's an excuse to reinforce friendships, bond with work colleagues and get the family together. A time for showing appreciation for others through presents and serving up and enjoying great feasts!

Most of us don't have enough of these positive human contact day to day so make the most of it - relationships with others can have such a beneficial effect on our mental and physical health and are something we should all make more time for, so make the most of everyone's festive spirit and lap up the love.

Christmas is also time to make some time for yourself and appreciate what you've achieved over the previous year.

Make sure you have some 'me' time over the next couple of weeks and don't spend the whole time rushing around after others - Mum's have a particular propensity to do this and forget themselves so make sure you give them a helping hand.

Equally christmas is a time to enjoy your food. For me Christmas day and boxing day are the two days in the year when I let myself indulge in any food I fancy. It's only two days and by the 27tjh I'm just left craving vegetables and rice! I do usually take home some vegan chocolates and a gluten free christmas pudding, just because I don't want to spend new years eve feeling bloated!

If I had to give two tips for not letting things go totally haywire over Christmas I would give these:

1. Drink a glass of water before every meal and snack. This will help your liver detox all the naughty food you're eating and massively regulate your appetite so you might be indulging but you'll eat a lot less than you would otherwise.

2. Be physically active for 30minutes every day, even if that just means walking to and from the pub or doing some housework. It will make you feel much less slovenly and get your lymph fluid moving, again helping you detox.

I'm off now until the New Year when I'll be back with some tips on starting the New Year with a healthy frame of mind.

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Super Thursday!

Apologies for my absence yesterday - I've now entered proper Christmas party season and seem to be out for drinks every night and lunch every lunchtime - not good on the waistline or the wallet!!  I'll be signing off for my Christmas hols properly tomorrow but in the meantime here are some tips on surviving all those xmas drinkies.  Apparently tomorrow night is the busiest party night in the city for the whole year and Addison Lee expect 16,000 individual cab bookings - that's alot of drunk people trying to get home! Enjoy and stay safe!

Top tips for post-work drinks:

1) hydrate and snack before you leave, drink 500ml water and have something healthy like hummous and carrot sticks, some nuts, some natural yoghurt, or even a wholegrain low fat sandwich.  If you go out thirsty or hungry you will drink more alcohol and eat more unhealthy food. If you have time go to the gym first and grab a protein shake on the way out - this way you can feel super virtuous and enjoy your evening guilt free.

2) once out match every alcoholic drink with a glass of water - just ask for both when people order if you don't want to ask for a fully non-alcoholic round. I don't drink at all and whilst that might raise a few eyebrows for the first round, after that people know just to get me a soft drink.

3) even for your soft drinks avoid the high sugar options and still alternate with water, or you'll be drinking alot of calories.

4) do eat something - just drinking, even soft drinks, isn't good for your blood sugar levels. Hopefully there will be some nuts or olives around which are a great healthy bar snack. Otherwise hopefully someone has ordered some Mezze with dried meats, sundried tomatos and hummous.  If it's traditional Christmas snack food then it's easiest to stick to protein only - mini sausages, chicken goujons etc. and skip the carbs. Avoid anything with pastry or batter if possible, but if the carbs are unavoidable (you've gone to a pizza place) then stick to vegetarian options.

6) don't be the last one to leave the party. Always it's best to leave when the night is still swinging, plus if you're the last one there you'll be the most tired the next day at work. Have fun, but call it a night before things get messy!

7) As soon as you get home hydrate - drink a pint of water then go to bed, then go straight to bed for maximum sleep

8) the next day have a filling fibre rich breakfast with plenty of fresh fruit. The fibre will help your liver clear any toxins from the night before and the vitamin C will also help with damage limitation and to perk you up. If you can't stay awake have a green tea rather than a milky latte.  Good breakfast options as muesli with added berries, fresh fruit salad with natural yoghurt, porridge with chopped fruit, fruit smoothie with added whey protein or natural yoghurt.  For a real reviver go to Crrush or any other juice bar and order a detox vegetable juice.  Then drink a glass of water every hour to rehydrate and get you through the day.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Water check

Managing the air conditioning system for a large office seems to be an impossible task.  Wherever I've worked the office temperature has always oscillated between greenhouse sleep inducing warmth to uncomfortable teeth-clenching chilliness, neither of which is particularly comfortable.

I cope with this by layering my clothes and always having a scarf in the office, but when it's really cold, like it was today, I find that by the end of the day I haven't drunk my full 1.5litre bottle of water and consequently feel more tired and hungry than I would usually.  When it's warm I guzzle through the stuff but when it's cold the idea of drinking a cold drink just isn't appealing.

This is why I'm taking a big thermos mug into work tomorrow with lots of herbal tea bags so I can regularly drink a nice warm and hydrating drink.  Some of you may be in the same situation so pay attention to how much water you're drinking at the moment, and make sure you have a mug of water or herbal tea or something non-caffeinated every hour to keep you hydrated and feeling awake! I even sometimes just drink plain hot water. That might sound odd but it's actually pretty nice on a cold day!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Feeding time

Friends would probably describe me as a pretty organized person, but bizarrely when it comes to meal prep I'm not actually that organized.

For example, today I was rushing around doing chores and even though I knew lunchtime  was approaching I didn't do anything about cooking some lunch. By the time I stopped my chores it was 3pm and I was too hungry to wait for lunch and had to eat a cobbled together snack meal that could be prepared in minutes.

This is fairly normal for me, to be caught out hungry and not be able to wait to cook a proper meal, as is not having my fridge stocked with enough ingredients to cook any recipes!  The problem is that foods that tend to be ready to eat instantly, other than raw salads, usually require some preparation so without some forward planning your diet is likely to be less nutritious than it could be.

It shouldn't be a surprise when I'm going to want my food - it's fairly predictable that I will get hungry and if you eat a well balanced meal you should be hungry approximately five hours after a proper meal, and a couple of hours later if you have a small snack inbetween.  So even if a meal takes a whole three hours to prepare (don't worry I never cook anything that takes that long) you should be able to have it ready approximately for when you'll be hungry.  For a weekday my routine should be 7:30 protein shake, 9am proper breakfast, 1:30 lunch, 4:30 small snack, 7:30 dinner.  On a weekend it's harder to stick to as I have a late breakfast but it's usually 10am breakfast, 2pm lunch, 4pm snack, 8pm dinner.

I was actually with a friend on the weekend who has a 4 month year old baby and was telling me about the importance of sticking to a feeding schedule to keep her little one happy. but eating at the same time every day also helps adults by putting our bodies in a routine where it knows it will be fed and has no perception of starvation (very irregular eating can put your body in a survival mode where it stores more calories that are eaten and can lead to central weight gain).

So time for me to start an early new year resolution and start planning my meals, at least for dinner, in advance ... it's not rocket science, find a good recipe, see how long it takes to cook, add 15 minutes (timings on recipes are always out!) and then start cooking that amount of time before my usual dinner time, even if I'm not hungry when I start.  Also time to get back into an old routine of picking out some recipes for the week on a Sunday night and then going shopping on Monday evening so I have all the right ingredients!!

ps I'm not having an advent calendar this year but I am using that as an excuse to have some christmassy treats, today it was a Sainsbury's Free From Deep Filled Mince Pie which was yummy!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The free-from christmas

Being gluten-free over Christmas isn't that easy - I already have mince pie and sausage roll cravings!

But with a bit of planning you can easily enjoy a gluten-free Christmas with lots of indulgent treats that won't leave you feeling bloated and sluggish.

If you're the one doing all the cooking it's worth checking the dietary requirements of your guests, they may have changed since last year.

Fortunately the bbc good food website, an absolutely brilliant resource for easy tasty recipes, has put together a whole gluten-free Christmas menu (as well as a veggie one) to take the guess work out of it. 

It all looks yummy and I know I'll be having a go at making some of there mince pies, yum! 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Taking to my bed!

Yesterday I was taken down by a bug I'd been fending off since Friday and had to admit defeat and have a day of total rest.

I'm not a natural at lying around doing nothing, but when my body tells me to stop I have learnt to listen to it. So I spent the day lying on the sofa, watching some tv but not too much, napping and eating food that involved less than 5 mins preparation.

With the pressures of work and family it isn't always possible to take sick day even when you need it, and Lemsip can be a saviour to get you through when you really can't stop, but at the end of the day you need good old fashioned bed rest to get over a bug properly.

This means staying home, not being physically active and keeping warm to encourage your immune system to fight off the bug. If you're rushing around working your body will register that now isn't a good time to stop and channel all your body's energies into recovering, so instead it will moderate your immune response, ultimately slowing down your recovery.

This is why it's better to take action as soon as you feel ill, clear your diary and stay home, keep warm and get as much sleep as possible - you'll recover quicker rather than soldiering on and feeling rotten for days.

Nutritionally this is a time you need food that is easy to digest, nutritious and warming, hence why soups are so good when you're ill. If you're not stocked up get your flatmate or other half to buy some ready soups, a big bottle of fruit smoothie and a selection of fruit to snack in - you don't need to waste energy cooking so something you can just heat up and eat is ideal.

Also make sure you have the appropriate arsenal in your supplement cupboards.
For me I have two supplements I rely on consistently to speed up my recovery - start taking them as soon as you feel ill and you may even find the bug never really takes hold.

First choice is always vitamin C the virus fighting stalwart. I take 3-6 grams a day, spread out over the day. It might sound a lot but the body can take a lot more and it's used up much quicker when your immune system is fighting off a virus.

Second, I always take a herbal supplement. Whilst everyone thinks of echinacea when it comes to anti-cold herbs, I find it's better as a preventative than a cure. Instead I go for cat's claw or olive leaf, 1-2 capsules three times a day, until I feel fully well. When I start taking them I'm usually better in under 48hrs.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Christmas coping

Having just had my second three course Christmas dinner of the year I thought it would be worth sharing my Christmas dinner strategies to avoid piling on the pounds if you're having more than one.

As with most 'special occasion' meals there are two ways to go to mitigate the damage ... The fact is if you eat all that naughtiness in combination it's going to be damaging for the waistline, but if you miss out a few elements you can reduce the damage quite significantly.

The first choice is the low-carb one, this way you can enjoy the fattier indulgences but by minimising your insulin production you minimise the damage of the meal. For this option to work avoid carbs three hours before and four hours after the meal:

Starter: go for smoked salmon, soup or pate, but skip the bread

Main: turkey, veggies, pigs in blankets are all allowed, but skip the stuffing, cranberry sauce and roasties.

Pudding: no sugar allowed I'm afraid so skip the pudding course and have a herbal tea or decaf coffee. However you can tuck into the cheeseboard, just without the crackers.

Option 2, the carby option. With this option you can enjoy the carbs but need to reduce the fat intake and keep the foods relatively low GI.

Starter: smoked salmon or vegetable soup are again both good options (pate is too fatty), have with wholemeal or rye bread (white bread is too high GI).

Main: turkey (a pretty lean meat) and veggies are great, let yourself have a couple of roast potatoes too but skip the stuffing, pigs in blankets and cranberry sauce (too much sugar).

Pudding: if a fruit salad is available go for that, otherwise if you want a proper pudding a dark chocolate mousse or a Christmas pudding (without custard) will be the lower GI options. Afraid no cheese allowed with this option.

If you've got more than one christmas dinner lined up you can try both strategies and that way you get to eat a full Xmas dinner, just not all on the same day!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Dear Santa...

December is finally here, so I now feel it's allowable to start talking about Christmas shopping. I'm a big list maker and no different when it comes to presents, not only have I been jotting down present ideas for my nearest and dearest all year, but also a list of pressies for myself.

This means that this time of year I have a nice big list to email off to Santa (aka my sister) and then magically everything I unwrap on christmas morning will be something I actually want - no novelty socks or useless gadgets for me :-) 

Whilst some of you might like a surprise, for those of you who might need some list inspiration, either for yourself or others here are some of the more health-oriented pressies on my list this year:

OXO Good Grips Hand Held Mandoline Slicer, make preparing veggies effortless. Create beautiful salads with sliced carrots and courgettes, cut perfect aubergine rounds for veggie lasagna, or lovely fruit slices to snack on.  If you want the luxe version go for this one

For anyone in need of some kitchen supplies anything from joseph Joseph is a great gift like these Joseph Joseph Index Colour Coded Chopping Board Set

My ultimate Christmas gift is the Vitamix Blender. OK so I know I'd have to be really really good for Santa to bring me this one, but it's on there just in case.

Moving out of the kitchen I'm always happy to receive spa vouchers for my local dove spa and they're a great way of buying a loved one some time for themselves.

For the at home option to get the tension out your shoulders after a long day get them a Homedics Quad Massager

Here's a few healthy ideas for the bookshelf:

Elana's Pantry Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook make delicious grain free treats for yourself and all the family.

And for the new year... to get you in the right place of mind for a healthy start of the year:

The Headspace Diet
The Lean, gradually nudge yourself into a new healthy lifestyle in the new year.