Monday, 24 June 2013

30 rocks

Hurrah it's wimbledon time again!! Sadly the sun isn't out yet in support, but the start of the tournament is making me feel more summary.

I know very little about tennis but that doesn't stop me avidly watching this one tournament every year and getting caught up in the excitement.

Interestingly this year there are more over 30s in the tournament than ever despite the fact that over time the tournament seemed to be dominated by russian teenagers!  When asked why this had happened Federer said that athletes these days took much better care of their bodies these days, specifically eating more carefully, and therefore they were prolonging the amount of time they could keep themselves at this supreme level of fitness.

For those of us who aren't competitive athletes we may not feel like we need to pay so much attention to keeping our bodies in peak condition, but even though we don't face the rigours of lengthy tennis matches, we do all face the regular rigours of life which can be stressful both physically and mentally.  Also if our bodies breakdown or can't cope it can affect our livelihoods just as it can for athletes.

This is why we need to actually consider the importance of keeping ourselves in top physical condition and plan for this so we can go the distance in life, rather than just in a tennis match.

So what does it take to still be playing top level tennis in your thirties?  Well I'm afraid the answer isn't particularly exciting, the answer is a diet rich in whole fibre-rich carbohydrates, lean proteins and loads of veggies combined with an absence of alcohol, confectionary and high-fat foods, although Roger Federer has admitted to enjoying the odd glass of wine and piece of swiss chocolate.

So when you're planning your meals or choosing from a menu, for a second imagine you're an ATP pro and think what they might choose, you might not win wimbledon but you'll still be top of your game in your thirties.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Programming your pancreas

Following a low GI diet has great benefits in terms of weight loss and balanced energy levels but there are also some longer term gains to be made.  If you consistently eat higher GI foods such as sugar, white bread, white pasta, long grained rice including most refined foods (biscuits, cakes, pre-prepared foods) then your pancreas will be continually stimulated to produce insulin, but if you avoid these foods for a good period of time (4-6 weeks) your pancreas will start to rebalance and get used to producing alot less insulin.

This means less fat storage (insulin is the hormone produced to cause sugars in the bloodstream to be stored as fat in your fat cells), but also in the long run it means your pancreas is less likely to over-react to the stimulus of sugary foods and therefore overproduce insulin.  What this means in practice is that if you consistently follow a low GI diet then on the odd occasion when you do have a splurge it will do less damage to your waistline than for someone who is following a low GI diet.

As a very unscientific sample I can say that having followed a reasonably strict low GI diet for the month leading up to my wedding definitely limited the damage from my honeymoon.  Two weeks of delicious three course meals and limitless cocktails would be sure to do alot of damage, but instead I gained a meagre pound for all my indulgences.

This isn't down to some freak genetics, I once quite impressively put on a whole 6 lbs of weight in 10 days on a trip to barcelona in my pre-low GI life! This was clear evidence of the benefit of my month of low GI eating.

This also doesn't mean I'm now free to continue eating the same way now that I'm back home.  It's very easy over-time to undo the good work by regularly eating high GI foods, making your pancreas produce more and more insulin and then gradually finding it easier and easier to gain weight.  The only way to keep reaping the benefits is to consistently eat low GI and keep high GI treats for special occasions.

A four week low GI strict phase is a good idea to get you started, The montignac method is a good place start.

Once you've got your blood sugar balanced you'll know it because your appetite will reduce, you'll be able to go 4-6 hours between meals without feeling grumpy or weak and you won't crave sugary foods as much, you should also have lost a couple of pounds without going hungry.  At this point you can start making high GI exceptions to your diet, but try and limit these to one meal a week (a good allowance for date night or a friends birthday or other special occasion).

So if you have a trip coming up where you plan to indulge for a more than a couple of meals, lay the ground work with a couple of weeks of strict low GI eating, and then you'll be able to enjoy your indulgences without piling on the pounds.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The good, the bad and the barbecue

The sun has finally got his hat on ... hip hip hip hurray!

Not only will this cheer us up and give our vitamin D levels a boost but it also means we have a good excuse for lots of picnics and barbecues.

I love both - there's something wonderful about the combination of informal outdoor eating, finger food and getting friends together.

I'm also a fan of any social gathering where you can choose from a range of foods rather than having to eat whatever you are served. Depending on your choices a picnic or barbecue can be either very healthy or very unhealthy! So here are some pointers to stay on the right side of the tracks!

Bad: mayo and creamy sauces are an easy way to add on the saturated fat and calories so go for mayo free. For sarnies cucumber and smoked salmon is always a good choice and go for mayo-free pasta or potato salads with tomato based sauces. The same applies to dips - thousand island and cheese and chive are best avoided, go for hummous, salsa and guacamole.

Good: salads and crudites usually get served so make sure you have half a plate of veg dishes. Go for easy to eat cherry tomatoes, cucumber sticks and veggie crudites. Venture beyond carrot sticks and include strips of peppers and babycorn. Iceberg leaves can also be used as wraps for make on the day sandwich alternatives - take a large lettuce leaf, fill with a few salad bits (grated carrot, pepper strips, potato salad) and some protein: smoked salmon/parma ham/boiled egg/falafel. Rollup like a tortilla wrap and tuck in. New potatoes dressed in olive oil and lemon juice or a dressed couscous salad are best for the carb side options.

Bad: I hate to break it to you but any charred meat is bad for you. Ultimately it's cancerous which is why bbqs aren't for everyday cooking, and bbq cuts are also usually the most laden with unsaturated fats. Pork is unfortunately the least healthy (bye bye sausages), whilst chicken and fish are the better options.
If you really want to go all out on the meat then keep the rest of your meal low carb. This will keep your insulin levels down so you'll store a lot less of the fat you're eating. This does mean no ketchup - it's 60per cent sugar - have some tomato puree instead.

If you want to be really good avoid meat altogether and have a tuna steak or a veggie burger/sausage in a wholemeal roll. I honestly don't miss the meat at a bbq, the bbq taste still comes across with veggie food and I always loved all the salad bits on the side more than a burnt burger!
Just as with picnics you'll usually have a good selection of salads and possibly a table to sit at making them easier to eat. Fill your plate with grilled corn on the cob, salad, vegetable kebab and half a jacket potato - you'll easily get your 5 a day in one meal.

Good: water (yes boring I know) or diluted fruit juice. If champagne's going have a bucks fizz (the vitamin c from the orange juice helps minimize your hangover) or if there are spirits have a gin and slimline or a vodka-cranberry.

Bad: Fizzy drinks (pure chemicals), but especially the full sugar variety. If you really want some fizz have an appletizer or some shloer. Beer and cider are bbq staples but can mean you easily put away an extra 1000 calories. If you do fancy either, match them pint for pint with water, which will significantly slow you down and keep you safe from sun stroke.

Strawberries are the obvious and delicious healthy choice. If they're good they don't need the cream. To be honest any fruit salad is going to. Be the healthiest option. If you need to dress it up add a dollop of greek yoghurt and a drizzle of honey.
For a bbq baked bananas are great - wait til the bbq has cooled a bit, take bananas and slit them down one side. Push a few squares of dark chocolate into them and then put on the bbq til the chocolate has melted. Eat out of their skins with a a spoon - yummo!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Healthy additives

Ever since GOOP pointed me to thug kitchen I've been annoyed with myself for not writing anything as genius!! Who knew that gratuitous swearing was the secret to making nutrition engaging!

The latest entry is the great suggestion to add quinoa to your porridge to crank up the fibre and protein. I actually make gluten free porridge out of quinoa flakes, but they have a fairly distinctive taste so a full bowl of quinoa is not for everyone.  Infact know that my diet can be a bit extreme, but eating well doesn't have to involve totally changing your diet - make little additions like this one as you cook and eat can really ramp up the nutritional content of your diet.

So as well as this great suggestion of adding quinoa to your porridge at home here are a few other little healthy additives to try out.

Add berries to your breakfast - they go with everything and are antioxidant power houses - add them to porridge, cereal, pancakes, smoothies, yoghurt, even slice them and eat them on toast with some natural nut butter.

Sprinkle chopped nuts or seeds over your salad for some crunch and some superfats.

Add cinnamon to your coffee ... it should cut the sugar you need if you like it sweet and reduce the blood sugar impact of the caffeine.

Whatever sandwich you are making always add an extra vegetable when you've finished, whether it's some grated carrot, some spinach leaves or some slice raddish.

Add grated ginger and minced garlic to any stir fry for some blood pressure lowering and antimicrobial power.

Use nut butter on toast instead of regular toast, every time - to keep your fats in check.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Just beet it

Greeting readers! Apologies for the extended absence - I was busy getting married to hot doc!

Anyone's who's organized a wedding will know how crazy it is, but thankfully I'm back in the normal non-wedding world again which has also given me a chance to catch-up on some nutrition reading.

There's always lots of research on individual nutrients, but there is also increasingly research on using whole foods to treat disease.  This is partly in recognition of the fact that whole foods contain a variety of nutrients that work together in synergy.  The great thing about this kind of research is that unlike the usual high science, this research can translate into changes you can make day to day that will have an impact on your health.

So on that theme I want to talk about beetroot, which has been shown in a recent study to lower blood pressure.  The research by the University of Reading showed that drinking a small amount of beetroot juice, equivalent to eating two small beetroots, lowered blood pressure in people with elevated levels.

The problem with alot of widespread conditions such as blood pressure, is that GPs have targets to treat these as quickly as possible so will have you on blood pressure lowering drugs before you even have a chance to ask about any alternatives. But if you can treat yourself with food then this would always be preferable to using synthetic drugs which have numerous side effects and don't address the underlying reason that you got your condition in the first place.

If you or someone you know has high blood pressure, they should start eating some beetroot pronto (or even better if you have a juicer add it raw to your morning fruit juice), but more importantly if you have any health condition you should be finding out what you can do about it with food rather than just relying on medication to get you back to top health.  Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs is a great place to start - Patrick Holford is the authority on this subject and brilliant at making the information accessible to the non-scientist - it might save you a few trips to the GP!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Traffic light salad

What a difference the sun makes - I find myself instantly in a happier mood and with a strong desire to start wearing my more colourful clothes (and buy myself a new spring wardrobe!)

It's not just my clothes that are more colourful - I finally feel like eating salad again. Salad to me means a bowl full of colour - the more the better - no boring Iceberg for me. Making your salad colourful makes it more visually appealing, means it will have more flavour and be more nutritious.

The pigments in fruit and veg are what protect them from damage, including sun damage, so infact the more we're exposed to sunlight the more we benefit from eating colourful fruit and veg.

I always think of a traffic light when building a salad and try and use green, orange and red veg in addition to the leaves.

Here are my favourites:
Spinach, grated carrot, sliced beetroot and green pepper drizzled with sesame seed oil and topped with sesame seeds

Babyleaf salad, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, black olives, orange pepper with olive oil and balsamic dressing and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds

Shredded Iceberg topped with the following mixed with some began mayonnaise: walnuts, chopped celery, sliced pear, grated carrot and tomato


Monday, 22 April 2013

What's your cuppa count?

Despite the marathon runners outside my window displaying amazing energy levels sunday was very much a sofa day for me after a late night out on the town!

The film I was watching was sponsored by Tetley tea and so I ended up seeing a fair few tea adverts. In one of them two girls sit on a sofa and try and work out how many cups of tea they drink in a day. They laugh as one suggests it's more than 10.

To me this isn't funny, it's worrying. Worrying because there are people out there drinking 10 cups of tea a day and not realising how bad this is for them. Worrying because a lot of people aren't alarmed by the fact they can't function without a cup of coffee.

I gave up caffeine 8 years ago and have never looked back. I have a ridiculous amount more energy, my gut is way less sensitive and I don't have a tendancy to glaze over after lunch that is only curable by having a latte.

I'm not totally caffeine free, on the odd day that I really need it I'll have a white or green tea, plus there's caffeine in the dark chocolate I occasionally enjoy, but that's one cup and a couple of squares a week max.

Caffeine, refined sugar and alcohol are all addictive and all things that you should definitely not be consuming on a daily basis. If you are then you need to do something about it - don't necessarily go cold turkey, that can backfire massively, but have some plan to cut down.

If you need some motivation on the caffeine front read this blog which nicely lays out the health implications:

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Hairy and healthy

I went round a friends house for dinner over the weekend and she served up a delicious lamb curry.  I don't normally choose to cook red meat at home for health reasons and also to keep control of my waistline.  But then I found out she got her recipe from the Hairy bikers new diet book The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight
so I was intrigued.

Having pawed over her copy I can tell you i'll be buying this book asap!  It's full of simple and yummy looking recipes with clean ingredients lists and I need a new source of foodie inspiration.

I generally prefer healthy recipe books from proper chefs than diet books from unknowns - the professional chefs just won't compromise on flavour so not only will you enjoy your new healthy food, but you can also serve it up to your friends.

Monday, 8 April 2013

The healthy mash

In my previous job I used to sit on a trading desk ... that was a quick learning curve for a naive graduate straight out of uni!! But a fun one! I had to get used to some colourful language pretty quickly, but these days trading floors seem a much politer place, I certainly don't hear anything like the language I used to.

One place I definitely wouldn't expect to see that kind of language is on Gwyneth Paltrow's blog! The picture of cleaner than clean, I was taken aback by this expletive filled find of hers. If you don't like swearing I should tell you not to read this - but you should read it, it's totally a brilliant - a site that can get you motivated to eat healthiliy and laugh out loud, it's not to be missed.


Monday, 1 April 2013

Some proper staples

I come from a family of cheese lovers so I generally find it's best to keep my thoughts on dairy to myself when I'm at home, but over Easter the subject got brought up by somebody else and my opinion sought so I gave it.

My family seemed surprised to hear hat dairy was not an essential element of a 'healthy diet' and more over that cheese shouldn't be categorized as a 'staple' food but rather a treat food to be saved for our 20% treat food allowance along with sugar, confectionary, cakes, unhealthy cuts of meat, any processed foods and drinks and alcohol.

I'm not a fan of the 'staple' food label, particularly because it's been used as a brain washing tool by the dairy marketing board and other food lobbies to convince people we all need to have milk and bread every day to be healthy!! Let's be clear once and for all, for an average adult (children and athletes have different nutritional needs that may require more fats), dairy food is not a healthy food and  does not need to be eaten to stay healthy and the same applies for refined wheat products (wholewheat does have a place in the diets of the non-wheat intolerant).

However if you want some 'staples' to base your diet on here's my list of staple foods that you should be eating on a regular basis as a foundation of a healthy diet:

brown rice - the ultimate slow burn, B vitamin rich carbohydrate, a million times better for you than white bread or quick cook rice

pulses - often these get overlooked, but pulses are an amazing source of protein, vitamins, minerals and fibre and should be a staple in all our diets, if you eat these every day your heart and gut will thank you later in life

green leafy veg - kings of the vegetables and in the top ten for anti-cancer foods, have a couple of portions every day to live a long and healthy life

berries and cherries - the lowest sugar, highest anti-oxidant fruit out there, berries are the best

fish - especially the oily variety, low in saturated fats, high in protein and rich in essential fats that protect your brain and keep you sane into old age

nuts and seeds - another great source of essential fats, proteins and minerals. Have a sprinkling every day.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Attack of the killer carb cravings

The busier I get at work the more I crave a really carby dinner like a big plate of pesto pasta.

This is a pretty normal phenomenon in times of stress - when you're stressed you produce more of the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol levels spike your blood sugar levels rise through releasing glycogen from the muscles and breaking down fat cells. However these spikes are followed by blood sugar lows when your body tries to reduce the blood sugar high by producing insulin. This sugar low is what causes you to crave carbs to get blood sugar levels up again. Eating a large serving of carbs also causes serotonin production making you feel better.

Unfortunately this means people tend to eat sugary and more refined foods when they are stressed when they need more nutritious foods such as veggies + wholegrains. Combined with the increased insulin production this generally leads to weight gain.

When I find myself falling into this trap I enforce these dinner rules to limit the damage and keep my diet balanced.

- firstly I always eat my veggies first either as a salad, soup or a veg juice before my main meal. If you've got a juicer you can easily get your five a day into a glass of juice in 2 minutes and drink it whilst you cook the rest of your dinner. Or instead of a juice have a fruit smoothie but blend in a handful of spinach leaves to increase your greens.

- secondly I make sure my meal includes a portion of protein the size of the palm of my hand. This is really important to regulate blood sugar levels and also to support your thyroid which can become suppressed in times of stress. I then alternate forkfulls of carbs for forkfulls of protein until all the protein is gone. If I really crave pure carbs then I have a protein shake first to tick this off the list.

- only once I've finished my protein can I then eat the rest of my pasta, by which time my appetite has usually regulated.

It takes some discipline not to just go straight to the carbs but this strategy really works making me feel more balanced and alert than when I just go full on carb monster, so it's worth the effort.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Keeping it clean

I'm firmly against conventional dieting - calorie counting, weighing portions and having to consult a list before being able to eat anything are not for me. But I am totally for having a food philosophy and following quality based diets where it's all about what you eat rather than how much.

In that vein this lovefood challenge caught my eye as a great way to clean up your diet and shed spare pounds if you have any.

The challenge is to only eat un-processed foods, or do any necessary processing yourself. So no ready meals, biscuits, cakes, bread, pasta, processed meats. Just raw unrefined ingredients - white rice is out, brown or wild rice is in, jars of sauces are out, homemade sauces like last weeks instant marinara are in.

The benefits are two fold, firstly eating this way cuts out so much rubbish from your diet - no sugar, no refined carbs, no fatty processed meats, biscuits, desserts etc. - which will massively improve the nutritional composition of your diet.

Secondly the foods you're left with haven't had all the goodness stripped out of them by processing - the grains are whole with all the fibre and B vitamins that come with their husks, meals are homemade with fresh fruit, veg, meat and fish
so have higher nutrient levels.

It's a tough challenge and whilst it would be amazing for your health to eat like this all the time it's fairly time consuming/impractical. But even if you just think about this for a week when you make your food choices you'll make much better choices and realise how much of our day to day foods are processed. 


Thursday, 21 March 2013

A bit of reverse psyhcology

I went to the gym this evening only to find I'd left my trainers at home! With no yoga class to go to I had to leave without doing any exercise feeling pretty disappointed.

Although this was altogether an annoying experience it did remind me how much I like the gym and made me appreciative of the fact that I can workout.

I think exercise and eating healthily can all too often be seen as a chore giving them a negative connotation. If you see them in this way you're bound to be less motivated and have an inner resistance to them.

But what if you imagined a world where you couldn't exercise and you could only eat processed junk food?

Ok some people may think this is heaven but I'm sure most people can think of some activities and foods they'd miss. I can think of loads - I'd be totally gutted if I couldn't run, cycle, swim, play tennis, go snowboarding. I'd even miss doing weights (I know this as I once had to totally stop exercising for six months and found it very demoralizing).

As for food there are some fruit and veg I could easily live without but loads of healthy food I'd miss terribly - all berries, limes, lemons, tomatoes, new and sweet potatoes, carrots, aubergines, delicious corn on the cob, avocado ... on reflection I'd even miss spinach.

Just making the list and imagining not having these foods is creating a craving for these foods in me just in the same way as you crave chocolate when you go on a diet.

Just take two minutes to jot down everything you'd miss and then turn the list of foods into your next shopping list, you'll find you enjoy your healthy foods with a new enthusiasm.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

A fruity issue

Fruit is mother natures candy, delicious, sweet and full of good for you nutrients, so it's a bitter pill to swallow if you find out that you can't eat it.

Can't eat fruit? Why wouldn't you be able to?

Well if you have IBS symptoms then there's a chance you may have fructose malabsorption, this is a digestive disorder where your small intestine can't absorb as much fructose as an average person. In not absorbing the fructose it leaves it to pass undigested into the large intestine where it is metabolized by colonic bacteria into short chain fatty acids, producing hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane gases, causing bloating, gas and commonly diarrhoea or urgently.

So how do you know if you have fructose malabsorption?
Well firstly you'll have these symptoms when you eat fruit, but you might be getting these symptoms on and off all the time so it might be hard to isolate.  Even if you know it's happening with fruit this is also a common symptom with small intestine overgrowths such as candida.  The only conclusive test is a hydrogen breath test using fructose, but you can always just eliminate fruit from your diet for a couple of weeks and seeing if your symptoms improve.

What can you do it if you have it?
Well unfortunately there is no known cure if you have genuine malabsorption other than to avoid fructose. If your symptoms are due to small intestine bacterial overgrowth including candida, you can treat this with antimicrobials, probiotics and a low sugar diet to rebalance your gut flora at which point you should be able to tolerate fructose again.

Apples and pears are the highest in fructose content so most likely to cause symptoms in those with fructose malabsorption, however berries, citrus and ripe bananas are the lowest so may be tolerated. I generally limit my fruit intake to berries, lemons, limes and the odd grapefruit and find that I tolerate these pretty well.

Fructose and fructans are both part of the group of carbohydrates called FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides and Polyols). Therefore if you have an issue with fructose you may also benefit from trying a diet excluding all the FODMAP foods including wheat, pulses, lactose and certain vegetables.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Pasta pronto

Apologies for the sporadic blogging at the moment, work and life are getting in the way!! I am still here and still blogging, but maybe not every day for the time being!

If you need some daily motivation to keep you on track I really do recommend printing off Hailies monthly day by day health calendar from her excellent blog. Stick it to your fridge or desk and read it every day - her suggestions are super easy and just enough to keep you conscious of what you're eating, drinking and whether you are moving or not.

Anyway back to my blog and some good wholesome food.  I was reading up on some research this week and read a summary of some research into ways of lowering unhealthy LDL cholesterol.  The study gave participants either an apple, a supplement containing an equivalent level of apple polyphenols or a placebo.  What they found was that both those on the supplement and eating the apples had significantly lowered levels whilst those on the placebo had no benefit. What was interesting was that there was a significant benefit above the supplement for those eating the whole apple.

This just provides more evidence as to why we should always look to food first as our primary source of nutrition.  Supplements are a great addition to our diets and I honestly wouldn't want to try living without my supplements! But the foundation of health is to be found in whole and healthy foods, which gets me to today's recipe.

I learnt this recipe on the raw food course I did a couple of months back but today I got to try it out on hot doc, my official taste tester, and it passed!  I'm happy to admit that I'm pretty lazy in the kitchen and when I'm tired the temptation of reaching for a jar of sacla pasta sauce is strong, but this Marinara sauce recipe is so ridiculously quick and easy (and according to hot doc tastier than the Jamie Oliver version that actually requires some effort) that you just don't have an excuse to ever use sauce out of the jar ever again!  It's also full of fresh and nutritious raw herbs and veggies.

For a true raw version put some courgettes through a spiraliser to make some raw veg pasta and stir the sauce through. But it was a cold wintery evening so I stirred this into hot spaghetti (gluten-free for me) and added kidney beans to mine and topped hot docs with the easiest chicken recipe i know.

Raw Marinara sauce:

Put the following in a glass bowl or jar and blend with a hand blender or food processor until it's almost smooth ... that's it!

1 red pepper
1 stalk celery
1/2 cup soaked dried tomatoes (I use Merchant Gourmet as they don't add sugar)
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 clove garlic (I lightly fried mine first as I can't eat raw garlic)
1/2 a handful of fresh basil leaves
spring fresh rosemary
small bunch of fresh parsley
a sprinkle of sea salt
1-2tbsp olive oil

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Intolerant ignorance!

London is such a great city for many reasons, one being the amazing range and high standard of food available.  Fortunately most restaurants are now much more clued in on allergies and intolerances so I can eat out without worrying that  I can't be accommodated.  However this isn't universal...

Last weekend in a trip to the alps I found myself in an argument with a restaurant manager as to whether rice contained gluten in it! Apparently 'the customer is always right' doesn't apply in France!

Fortunately rice, potatoes, corn quinoa, buckwheat and millet are all gluten free carb choices. Whilst it's rare for a restaurant to stock gluten-free bread, some have gluten-free pasta and it's hard to think of anywhere that couldn't serve you a side of either rice or potatoes if you suggested it.

Clearly I could have saved myself an argument by just asking for rice rather than pasta!  But in the end I got my rice (the manager checked with the chef who backed me up!). It did remind me though not to assume that everyone knows what does or doesn't contain gluten and if in doubt to always ask exactly what is included in a dish, this is especially important for anyone with a true allergy.  Hopefully over time it will become more normal overseas as well as at home, so anyone trying to eat 'free from' won't have to face an angry restauranteur!

Monday, 11 March 2013

But rice is a grain!

London is such a great city for many reasons, one of which is the amazing range and high standard of food available.

Fortunately restaurants are also so much more clued in on allergies and intolerances that I rarely have any issues with them accommodating me. However this isn't universal everywhere you go.

Last weekend in a trip across the channel I found myself in an argument with a restaurant manager as to whether rice contained gluten in it! Apparently 'The customer is always right' doesn't apply in France!

Fortunately rice, potatoes, corn, quinoa, buckwheat and millet are all gluten free so there are plenty of carb choices for the gluten intolerant. It is rare for a restaurant to stock gluten-free bread, some have gluten-free pasta, but it's hard to think of a type of restaurant that couldn't serve you a side of rice or potatoes.

Clearly I could have saved myself an argument by just saying that I wanted rice rather than pasta! In the end I got my rice (he checked I was right with the chef!) but it's certainly taught me not to assume that everyone know what does or doesn't contain gluten and if in doubt to check with the chef!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Super skin

Birthdays tend to focus the mind on the ageing process and how it's going! Some people like my cousin, have got such naturally fine and soft skin that they never seem to age, but sadly I'm not so lucky and this birthday has definitely brought a couple of extra wrinkles with it!

Luckily for those of us without porcelain skin there is a lot you can do to keep your skin baby soft rather than old and weathered.

Externally it's the usual list, wear spf everyday to stop sun damage, exfoliate and moisturize religiously and don't just take care of your face (a wrinkly neck or hands tend to give your age away!)

Internally it's all about fat and water - your skin is made up of water held in a balloon made of fat. So you need to drink plenty of water and eat healthy fats everyday - oily fish, nuts, seeds, olives and olive oil, avocados etc. If you don't like these or can't manage to eat them regularly get a good EFA supplement and take it every day.

Anything that dehydrates you is therefore the enemy, so caffeine of any form, alcohol and salt should both be avoided to get your skin in top condition.

Also anything that hardens fats will harden your skin cells so to keep it baby soft you need to avoid alcohol and refined sugar. Remember hard skin = wrinkles.

Any exposure to toxins also damages fats and hardens them so smoking, drugs (legal or illegal), food additives and burnt or fried foods are all extremely ageing. I'm sure we all have seen or known people who've aged prematurely from too many cigarettes and glasses of wine.

This is why antioxidants are also so key as they can minimize the damage of toxins on our cells. All fruit and veg are therefore skin friendly, but particularly those with red, orange, purple and blue skins.

For a daily skin checklist have one portion of each (eg a plum, red pepper, sweet potato and blueberries) plus a serving of oily fish or a palmful of seeds, nuts or their oils plus 1.5 litres of water.

This may all sound super vain and respect to those of you who can ignore the endless pressures to look eternally young. But remember that anything that keeps your skin young from the inside is also keeping every other cell young - your heart, your brain, your lungs, liver, kidneys etc will all age slower which means a longer, healthier and happier life - now that isn't so superficial is it?!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Miss Haribo looks fantastic!

Miss Haribo here again

I enjoyed Monday's run so much that I decided to go back for more of the Nike flyknit experience. This time it was an event organised by Elle Magazine. As you can imagine all the girls looked fabulous in some pretty fantastic kit. I guess I wasn't alone in wanting to look nice for Paula Radcliffe!

One thing I've noticed in the last few years is a growing availability of gym kit that actually looks nice and doesn't make you look like some hideous 80's lycra addict. I think we have a lot to thank Sweaty Betty and Stella McCartney for Addidas for.  

But why does this matter? One thing that got mentioned last night is that often women don't exercise because they are worried about what they look like; other people mentioned that new kit was often the thing that motivated them when they were feeling low. Looking the part gives me confidence. I often go to races looking totally made up for this very reason (ok this is partly because it gives me something to do between paranoid peeing).  

Sanya Richards-Ross's mantra is  "look good, feel good, run good". And if it's good enough for an Olympic gold medal winner it's good enough for me.

Miss Haribo


Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Miss Haribo raves it up

Miss Haribo here again

Yesterday I went on an absolutely amazing run. It was part of the Nike Flyknit experience at Somerset House (sadly I did not get to keep the fantastic trainers).

As soon as I turned up and found it was being led by rundemcrew, the people responsible for my murder mile sessions, I knew that I was in for a treat. But what a treat! We ran around Somerset house, the South Bank and through the Old Vic tunnels. The route was great enough but we got given giant glow sticks to run with, ?there were DJs at various sports (where we all stopped and had a dance), we sprinted to a man holding a giant flare and as we ran over millennium bridge a huge amount of balloons got released.

Obviously part of this brilliance was aimed at us feeling good about Nike. But, as explained in the Q and A session beforehand, there was another purpose too.......creating happy memories. Training isn't just about training your body. When we are tired during a race or a training session sometimes the thing that gets us through is to bring up a happy memory. In other words you are no longer at mile 17 running through the Isle of Dogs in the rain but running through the park in the sunshine.

So take a break from getting harder, better, faster, stronger and, sometimes, work on creating a happy memory.

Miss Haribo.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Proper pilates

Someone stole my trainers in the gym today .... seriously! This is not a cheap gym, anyone who can afford membership there does not need my old, almost worn out, trainers.

Still the outcome, other than having to fork out for a new pair, is that I found myself in a pilates class (the only thing I could think to do sans trainers).  I do occasionally do the odd pilates dvd but always find I get bored quite easily - however when you have a very strict teacher standing over you, making sure you don't use lazy technique, it is not only not boring but also really hard!

My stomach muscles didn't know what had hit them and I was way more sweaty than seemed warranted given the tiny muscle movements I was making.  It made me super aware that our bodies are not some simple construct, we have so many muscles we're not even aware of and most of us don't know how to hold them properly when we sit, stand or move.

Despite my remedial class, I still find myself slouched on the sofa right now, but it has made me resolved to be more conscious of my posture and how I'm holding myself instead of just being so caught up in my own thoughts that I lose awareness of my body.

Good posture isn't just good for your bones and muscles, it is also good for overall health creating space  for you to breathe properly and encouraging proper circulation, rather than limiting the flow of blood and lymph to and from certain areas.  Just try sitting tall and taking a few deep breaths when you feel tired at work and you'll instantly feel more awake. Therefore if you slouch you're impairing your immunity, cardiovascular system, metabolism and detoxification amongst other things.  It's time to start sitting tall ... and going to pilates classes more often!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Food fatigue

Waiting for spring to arrive is always a painful experience. This is most obviously due to waiting for the weather to warm up (and for me getting bored of my winter clothes!) but there's another food related reason this period of year is a bit of a drag and that is that there's very little food in season so most of our fruit and veg isn't as flavoursome as it should be, having travelled thousands of miles to our supermarkets.
Love Food have put together some brilliant seasonal fruit and veg calendars (link at the end of the article below) to help you eat in season, which are worth printing out and putting in your kitchen.  You'll see from them that February and March have the least number of food options for any time of ear.

Eating locally grown food is the most environmentally friendly choice and usually the shorter the distance your food has travelled the higher the nutrient content, but when your only options are cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower (ok there are a few more than that!) you can be forgiven for not being inspired in the kitchen.

Boredom is a healthy diets worst enemy, leading to eating convenience or comfort foods.  So whilst the end of winter is dragging on I actually positively encourage you go out and buy some fruit and veg that you haven't had for the last couple of months without concern for where it's come from - the changing flavours will wake up your taste buds and inspire a new interest in using healthy fresh ingredients.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Ban the baristas!

Apologies for the lack of blogs this week ... it was my birthday on Tuesday so I've been busy celebrating!
The party isn't quite over ... but I just wanted to blog about this article I spotted in the daily mail - obviously the source of all reputable health advice ;-)

It's about whether caffeine should be banned or not - which might sound crazy to you, but if you consume enough caffeine it could hypothetically kill you and it is an addictive drug for which some people have had to have professional rehab treatment - seriously!

If we all wanted to live as healthily as possible we would never have any caffeine, alcohol or refined sugar.  But for alot of people that would take alot of fun out of life too!! I'm also pretty liberal at heart so I'm not hugely in favour of banning things, but I do think there isn't enough awareness around the fact that alcohol and caffeine are both drugs and with that comes some significant health implications.  Certainly if you find it hard to go a day without one of these it should be a warning that your body has adapted to the drug and it's time to take a break.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Early birds

I was asked a good question over the weekend, something I'm sure most of us have suffered with at one point or another so I thought I'd answer it on the blog.

The question was what can be done to avoid early waking. This is where you wake up in the small hours, say 4-6am and can't get back to sleep, even though you need to. So if you went to bed at 8pm and woke up at 6am that doesn't count!

Firstly are you being woken up by noise or temperature or light? A change in any of these can easily wake you up. I have blackout blinds and usually sleep with earplugs for this very reason.

Next question is did you / do you eat your dinner late? Eating less then 3hours before bed will mean you go to sleep without completing digestion which can cause sleep disturbances. If you have to eat late then avoid meat and cheese and you'll probably sleep better.

Did you have any caffeine during the day? This is probably super obvious to all of you but I am still surprised by how many people don't realise that taking a drug designed to make you feel more alert would disrupt your sleep patterns. If you have any sleep problems I'd recommend cutting out coffee altogether as a minimum, but in general avoid caffeine after midday.

Were you dehydrated? Your body will wake you up if it needs anything so make sure you're hydrated. But don't make the mistake I sometimes make of forgetting to drink all afternoon, drinking lots in the evening and then waking up in the night to use the bathroom! Make sure you drink throughout the day so your pee is only the faintest yellow colour before you go to bed.

Did you have any alcohol? This really affects me. I rarely drink these days but whether I have 1 drink or 3 I always wake up early the next day instead of being able to sleep it off.

One of the reasons alcohol can cause early waking is that alcohol is a fast burning sugar, so can give you a sugar high but be followed by a blood sugar crash. If you're blood sugar drops too low your body produces adrenaline and cortisol to raise them to a safe level, but unfortunately their production also wakes you up.

This is why stress and poor food choices can also lead to disturbed sleep. Stress can mess up your pattern of producing cortisol, making you tired at night and alert during the day, whilst also disregulating your blood sugar.

Eating a dinner that isn't big enough or has a high glycemic index and/or insufficient protein can lead to blood sugar drops during the night. That's why choosing wholegrains such as brown rice, quinoa or bulgar wheat is so important in the evening, along with fibre rich vegetables to slow digestion even more add in some fish, tofu or pulses for some healthy protein, leave a couple of hours to digest before you go to bed and you should sleep through.

For anyone who has to eat early for work, childcare or other reasons then a tactical snack 90 minutes before bedtime should do the trick, have a protein shake or natural yoghurt with a banana + some seeds, or some oatcakes with hummous or no sugar peanut butter and you should be sustained through til morning.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

A tale of two evenings

Last night I had a late one, out with work colleagues til gone midnight. Today I bumped into a friend of mine had a similarly late night with clients and we compared notes.

Despite not going to bed til 1am I felt surprisingly alert today and was pretty productive, whilst my friend was having one of those days you have to drag yourself through, counting down the minutes to home time. So what was the difference?

The first and most obvious one is that I didn't drink any alcohol. I appreciate that for some of you the idea of a sober night out is too hideous for words, but if you've ever been forced to do it for any length of time due to medication, pregnancy or illness you'll know that it is possible to have just as much fun sober and sometimes even have a better time than if you drank (alcohol is a depressive drug).

Infact I wasn't the only one, a couple of other colleagues were on the soft drinks and no one batted an eyelid so I think the sober stigma is disappearing.

The absence of alcohol does make you sleep better and not be hungover, but also if you are matching your drinking partners drink for drink with water, as I was, you'll end the evening thoroughly hydrated so will wake less dehydrated than usual and therefore with more energy.

Obviously with an evening that long you have to eat. Fortunately we ordered food early on, but the mains were way too stodgy for my tastes so instead I ordered a couple lighter of appetiser dishes to snack on.

My friend unfortunately had to eat a three course dinner at 10pm which is less than ideal and meant he didn't sleep well. Eating that much rich food that late means you'll go to bed with a half full stomach and won't detox properly overnight. If you do have to eat late go for a vegetarian non-cheese option, as meat and cheese takes the most time to digest.

As per yesterdays blog, staying healthy whilst maintaining an active social life is totally doable, you don't have to become an anti-social hermit to keep to a healthy regime.

It just takes a bit of adapting and being mindful of the effect of your choices on your body. You also have to accept your limitations. Now I'm in my thirties I know I can't party like I used to - one 1am bed time a week is fine, but two nights in a row and I'd feel as rough as my friend did!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Dieting out

Gosh it was cold this evening, but a nice warming veggie curry at Las Iguanas warmed me right up.

Both myself and my friend are on health kicks but with different approaches, so had to find somewhere we could both eat.

I'm currently on a vegan low sugar diet but still enjoying carbs. So my palm heart and squash Moqueca (ordered gluten free) full of veggies and served with rice was perfect.

My dining companion is currently low-carbing so went for chicken fajitas and asked for a side salad in place of the flour tortillas.

Dieting doesn't have to be a miserable anti-social affair. If you choose somewhere with a varied menu and an easygoing attitude you'll find something to suit everyone. I find asian and south american cuisines are the most adaptable but don't be afraid to ask for substitutions and discuss your particular requirements with your waiter. Most chains these days are now clued in to the need to be flexible in order to attract customers.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

BMI motivation

I'm not a fan of following guides and tables when it comes to working out ideal weights. You generally know by looking at someone if they're a healthy weight or not. But for those who can't tell or who maybe need a number to jolt them into action the BMI is a useful guide.

It can be wildly inaccurate so should be used with care - I once had a boyfriend who was very into weight training and had an impressively low amount of body fat but was told by the GP practice nurse that he was obese and should lose weight, obviously too busy looking at his chart to notice this was clearly not the case!

Your body fat percentage is the most truthful measure, if you can get an accurate reading, but save the money on the scales and buy a tape measure! I think periodically measuring yourself with a tape measure is one of the best ways to keep tabs on whether you're inshape or not and can pick up other issues such as waist to hip ratio which tells you your insulin profile and risk of diabetes amongst other conditions, and if you're losing or gaining in particular areas.

Trying on a pair of skinny jeans is another super easy way to keep tabs on your weight - if you can get into the same clothes you wore five years ago you're doing well!

Still when the bbc published this article on obesity I couldn't resist their cute little BMI world comparison tool.

It turns out that if everyone had the same bmi as me (21) then it would remove 35,192,090 tonnes of total weight from the world population! Put in your weight and height and it will also tell you where you are relative to your country (i'm in the bottom 10%) and which country average you match (Bangladesh).

So if you need a bit of motivation to lose some weight, click on the articlee below and scroll down to calculate your bmi 


Monday, 18 February 2013

Run with a pack

Miss Haribo here again

I'm a big of a gadget monster so people often ask me what my favourite bit of exercise equipment it. My answer: a friend!

I don't mean that you should start using your mate as weights! But that exercising with other people can be a great motivation.

Fairly obviously you are more likely to actually go to that session because you don't want to let your friends down and gossiping through a session makes the whole thing less painful.

But there are other benefits too. A friend who is a little faster than you can inspire you to quicken your pace to catch up. Pacing a friend who is slower can restrain you from going too hard in what is supposed to be a recovery run.

They can also be pretty inspirational. I've lost count of the number of jumps, vaults or climbs I've managed in parkour simply because I've been able to see someone do them first and realise that they are actually possible.  
So next time you want to enjoy your workout a little more: invite a friend along.

Miss Haribo


Thursday, 14 February 2013

Miss Haribo Murder Miles

Miss Haribo here,

For the last six weeks I've been doing the "murder mile" sessions at my gym.  They were organised by Run Dem Crew and we basically tore it up running track, intervals and parachute sprints(!) around London.  I've been off running due to injury for six months and I wanted to get back into it. My ambition was to run just one run where I felt ok and not pathetic. I can confidently say that thanks to Charlie Dark and the rest of the murder mile crew I completely smashed that goal.

It might seem a bit odd to take a class in learning how to run. However, I learnt lots about things like running form, how to stay strong when finishing a race, the need to incorporate speed training, some amazing places to run in London and how to cope when it feels uncomfortable.

While the physical part of training is important to mental one is too. I also learned that I have to step out of my comfort zone if I ever want to improve (and one day I'll be comfortable there)  and that what really matters is quality not quantity.

The latter is particularly important. Too many time we'll head out to the park on a run when we aren't really feeling it, do the same thing as we did the week before and the week before that. But all we achieve is burning a few calories and falling a bit out of love with running. It's better to do something really good for a short while that made you improve and that you enjoyed.

Miss Haribo

For those that want to know more about what happened and how to join in next time the link is here:,377 . This was my absolute favourite session. I felt like my legs were flying by the end!  


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Lent - old skool style

I love pancakes, infact if I ever ended up on death row and had to pick a last meal they would probably be it.

But last night I didn't have pancakes for dinner. Partly because I was out, but also because having been on a low sugar diet for a couple of weeks I actually didn't feel like them. This was really odd - thinking I wanted them but not actually wanting them.

This just shows how addictive sweet foods are but also how quickly you can adjust your palate.

In the past I've suggested all sorts of different things to give up for lent. But this year I recommend going back to the old school lent and give up sugar. Traditionally you're also meant to give up butter and eggs, but sugar is quite enough. Infact giving up sugar is one of the best dietary changes you can make for your health in the long-run.

If you're onboard with this then up til easter you need to avoid anything sweet tasting other than fruit (no cheating with sweeteners) or anything containing more than 5g added sugar per 100g.

I'm not going to lie to you, it's going to be hard, but by the end of it you'll have so much control over your sugar cravings that you might not even feel like your easter eggs!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Daylight not twilight

Apologies for the lack of blog yesterday, I got home late and so tired I couldn't think so I saved you an incoherent ramble!!

This is the time of year that is hardest for most of us, physically and emotionally. Endless short, cold days without the excitement of Christmas to keep us going it's easy to feel tired and worn out.  There's another reason for why you might feel like this - it's the longest period of time sine most of us got some decent sunshine, so we'll be running down our vitamin D stores.

Some of my friends wisely counteract this with a trip to sunnier climbs this year and come back totally rejuvenated. If however you're a snow lover and use your early hols to hit the slopes then you'll most likely be going at least 6 months without a decent dose of sunshine.

Whilst there is alot of wise advice to scare off us from too much sun exposure, living in this country over the year we're actually likely to get not enough.  Rushing out into the sunshine for three weeks total cooking every summer is definitely not good for you and is not the answer.

I'm still supplementing with my vitamin D supplements but I think it's also important to get some daily daylight exposure especially to help regulate our sleep and energy levels - we are not vampires and are designed to wake up and go to sleep with the sun, so it's going to affect us if we don't see any daylight monday to friday.  Try and get out in some daylight for at least 15minutes every day - if you can walk part of the way to work that's a great way to do it, but otherwise just go for a walk round the block at lunchtime.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

The diet wake up

Any good personal trainer will tell you that you shouldn't follow the same exercise routine indefinitely - your muscles will get used to doing the same exercises and so in the long run they will use their effectiveness.

It's worth thinking about your diet in the same way. Overtime your body adapts to your diet but also your nutritional needs change. The diet that suited your body in your twenties won't still be perfect for you in your thirties.

Gradually adapting what you eat overtime to your needs is an important part of staying healthy. But it can also be good to adjust your diet more radically for a couple of weeks to wake it up and activate your fat burning pathways!

A detox is a good way of doing this as is a couple of weeks on a carb restricted diet which can help get your blood sugar levels back into balance or help you kick the sugar habit if your diet has gone off track.

Endless yoyo dieting is very unhealthy and I'm against strict diets as a long-term approach to nutrition, but if you want to try out a new diet for a couple of weeks twice a year it can be a wake up call for your body, bring some new foods or recipes into your diet and do you some good.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Creamy comfort

I love a creamy sauce, who doesn't?! But if you're dairy intolerant then you don't get to enjoy the creamy goodness.

So thank goodness for the wonderful coconut! Coconut cream, creamed coconut, coconut milk can all be used to make a nice creamy sauce and some very easy dishes without the dairy.

You can rustle up a super quick dinner by stir-frying some chicken, tofu, or prawns with veg and then making a quick creamy sauce with a teaspoon of thai green paste dissolved into half a tin of coconut milk. Add some lime rind and a squeeze of lime juice to add some zing and heat through.

This evening I got home late and so rustled up another of my fave super quick creamy dinners - chicken brazilian.

I make this with tofu but I'm sure it also works with prawns. You can also spice it up by cooking in some chilli flakes when you add the garlic.

Chicken Brazilian, serves 4
Cube 3-4 chicken breasts and toss in 1tbsp fresh lemon juice, then stirfry in 1tbsp til it's starting to brown.
Chop 2 onions and add to the chicken. Add 2 gloves of garlic minced. Stirfry for 5 minutes.
Slice 1 green pepper and add, then dissolve 55g creamed coconut in 150ml boiling water and add to the pan (or the same volume of coconut milk). Chop 2 large tomatoes and add them to the pan then add 55g ground almonds to thicken the sauce plus a few turns of black pepper.
Stir it all together and simmer for 15mins. Serve with brown rice or quinoa.


Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Dubious dairy

Having a dairy intolerance sucks! You miss out on so many wonderful foods, creamy yoghurt, beautiful cheese, delicious ice cream, the luxury of some gold top on your breakfast cereal - so many foodie pleasures!

But I think there's a danger in focussing too much on intolerances when it comes to whether you can eat dairy or not.

Infact even if you've been checked for lactose intolerance and don't have it that doesn't mean you can eat dairy, it's possible to react to the protein in dairy which won't be checked by this test.

Dairy has long been touted as a key food group in our diets as if it's essential for our health. From my personal research I think the truth is infact the opposite and I don't believe any of us should be eating it for our health and it should be saved for the 20 per cent naughty food in the 80/20 balance.

Isn't milk a natural food?
Yes it is - for babies. We are clearly not designed as adults to eat food that has to be squeezed out of a boob! If we really thought about it we'd realise there is something very wrong with drinking milk as adults, plus our bodies aren't designed to deal with milk beyond toddlerhood.

Don't we need dairy for our bones? No! Infact last year Harvard school of public health left dairy off it's recommmended healthy eating food plate on the basis that there is little evidence of a benefit of dairy in osteoperosis and considerable evidence that dairy can be harmful to our health ... Pretty damning stuff. And logical too, if dairy prevented osteoperosis it would have a much lower incidence in europe than it does in asia where dairy is not a staple food - infact statistically the truth is the opposite, those on an asian diet have much stronger bones!

So why do people believe it's so good for them?
Milk is big business and the milk industry lobby throws billions at advertising to perpetuate the myth that we and our kids need to drink milk to get strong bones.

There are also some concerns over the effect of dairy on fertility. It's well known amongst nutritional therapists that saturated fats disrupt a healthy hormone balance and also that non-organic milk (and even organic but to a much lesser degree) is laced with hormones given to the cows which can have an effect on our own endocrine system - scary! If you're struggling to conceive you may want to cut the dairy for 2 mths minimum.

Well that's all killed my day dream about some creamy greek yoghurt!

Just remember dairy should be a treat food, not a staple, unless you're a baby cow!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Salad style

Apologies for the lack of blog yesterday.  A busy weekend culminated in a trip to IKEA which, if any of you have been, you'll understand can put the best of us into a catatonic state!!

Not only was I incapable of blogging, I was also incapable of making my lunch for work, so instead picked up a cooked Salmon salad from Itsu which was delicious.

Whilst buying lunch out every day in the city can be pretty pricey, it's worth doing every now and again for some lunch inspiration. A salad out is usually nicer than a salad from home and for me at least, this is down to the number of ingredients.  My Itsu salad contained the following amongst I'm sure more ingredients than I was aware of: Salmon, some kind of oil based herb dressing, parsley, coriander, carrot, beetroot, pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds.  Together these created a salad that was delicious and kept me interested to the end.

The key to recreating this at home is having a well stocked pantry. Obviously the leaves, salad or cooked veg and herbs need to be fresh from the fridge but it's the added extras that can make a salad interesting and vary the flavour.  It's also a great way to keep your diet varied and make sure you're getting a comprehensive range of nutrients, as even within a small group such as seeds, each seed will have a different nutrient composition

Here are my favourite salad pantry supplies:

Nuts & seeds for some crunch: I rotate between pumpkin, sunflower, poppy and seeds as well as pine nuts, pecans or walnuts to add some flavour, flaked almonds are also lovely with an Asian style salad

Antipasto: bottled olives, artichokes, capers, anchovies, peppers and sundried or sunblush tomatoes add a lovely flourish and liven up even the most boring salad

Seaweed: Yes the weed from the sea! Clearspring sell a good selection and I add a few wakame flakes to my salad every now and then for a great source of minerals

Emergency supplies: Food is always best fresh but for when the cupboards are bare some tinned sweetcorn or tinned asparagus and some tinned tuna can be rustled into a nice quick salad with some leaves

Fruity finish: a sprinkle of sultanas, goji berries, or even some chopped apricots, can add a lovely sweetness to bitter leaves - just use sparingly to avoid overpowering the salad

Dressing: I always keep a bottle of Newmans own Italian dressing in my fridge for a lazy day, but otherwise I rotate between olive oil or sesame oil combined with lemon juice, various vinegars (balsamic, cider, rice wine and my new favourite Ume Plum from Waitrose).

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Missing the messages

Cosmetic procedures have been in the press this week as new legislation has been proposed to restrict who can administer botox, fillers and other superficial cosmetic treatments.

I'm not set against these treatments, although am in favour of their regulation, and have seen some really good results in people I know. However I think the high demand for these procedures does reflect our slightly imbalanced relationship with our bodies.

The media encourages us all to be vain/neurotic about our appearances to the point where we don't want to show any signs of ageing or even a spare (and healthy) extra pound. So people are eager to turn to quick fixes such as fillers or liposuction to sort these 'imperfections'. But we're missing the point if we think this is the answer.

How we look on the outside tells us an awful lot about what's going on on the inside and these are messages we should pay attention to.

If your skin is wrinkling or thinning prematurely then it's not just your skin that's ageing - it's all your internal cells too, which means that your organs are also wearing out too fast. Rather than getting some botox the answer should be to follow an anti-ageing diet (low sugar, high efas + fruit + veg, lots of water and sleep).

Not only will this extend your life but you can use this as a barometer of how effective your dietary changes are - as your skin starts to glow and look plumper and younger you'll know you're having a positive impact from the inside out.

The same applies to weight, stubborn weight around your middle is a big flag for potential insulin resistance/diabetes and/or adrenal and thyroid issues. A bit of lipo will not fix any of these underlying issues that could be highly debilitating in the long-run.

A low GI, high fibre detox diet would not only help shift your love handles, but also help regulate your blood sugar and reduce stress on your endocrine and cardiovascular systems.

If we all spent a bit more time focussing on what's going on on the inside we'd actually all end up looking and feeling a lot younger and not needing these quick fixes.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Not just for kids

If there's one food group we all need more of it's vegetables. Low calorie, high in fibre and water and rich in anti-ageing, anti-cancer nutrients they're winners on all fronts.

Unfortunately they aren't everyone's favourite food, otherwise we'd all live to 100! So sometimes a little trickery is needed to make sure we or our loved ones eat enough of them.

There's a few tricks we can use on ourselves, and kiddies, to get somme extra veggies in:

- simple bribery, you can't have dessert til you've eaten two portions of veggies

- disguise, veggies can be easily added to stews, curries, chilli, pasta dishes. For the extremely veg averse you can blend them into sauces. I have a friend who's husband won't go near a vegetable so she has to cook and blend them beyond recognition. Jessica Seinfeld's books are a great source of vegetable hiding recipes.

- dress them up, us grown ups with our more sophisticated pallettes may need something more exciting than a side of boiled broccoli! Mixing veggies together and adding herbs and spices can turn them from a chore to a delight. For recipe inspiration Ottolenghi's latest book 'Jerusalem' is a fab place to start.

- sauce them up. Whilst I'm in favour of eating veggies plain, I appreciate with some people that's just not going to work. If adding some sauce or dressing is what it's going to take to get you to eat some veg then so be it. Most people will eat salad if it's nicely dressed, olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper can also add a lot of life to steamed veg (add some lemon juice on top for steamed new potatoes), equally some sugar free soy sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil does wonders for stir fry veg. Ms haribo is the master of hiding veg in her fruit smoothies - add a handful of spinach or kale for some easy greens with a yummy fruit taste.

- if all else fails, add cheese! I've found that most people will eat vegetables if you add some cheese! Crumble in some feta to roasted peppers, or make a salad with spinach and goats cheese. I served up some stuffed courgettes last week topped with a little grated cheddar and there were clean plates all-round.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Food without the nonsense

Today I had to make a trip to the health food store and paid double the regular price of the regular version in tesco.

When in France last week I had a very different experience - I needed soy sauce for my marinated salmon. At the local spa supermarket, not a big store by any means, I bought their own brand soy sauce for half the price of today's purchase, ingredients: soy, water, salt.

I think this nicely summarizes a key problem in british food culture - we are quite happy to buy any old rubbish. If we all shopped critically and only bought food that only contained the proper ingredients then I wouldn't have to go schlepping around looking for soya sauce with only soya in it!

So this weeks shopping challenge is to only buy food with three or less ingredients, if the food you want requires more than three then make it from scratch yourself. This way you're much more likely to use fresh ingredients and get a more nutrient rich diet, without lots of added nonsense. And maybe after a while the supermarkets will start stocking food without the added nonsense!

Monday, 28 January 2013

The mindful meal

I think that all too often public figures, particularly politicians, are disingenuous or water down their opinions for fear of not saying what the general public want to hear, so I was delighted to read this article in the telegraph about Anna Soubry's frank criticism of British food culture: 

Her key bug bears are:
- people eating at their desks and working through lunch, rather than taking a proper break to "chill out, get your head back together, and enjoy what you're eating"
- not taking time to cook and enjoy home cooked meals
- people being weight obesessed - she had banned her daughters from using the word "fat" at home so they don't obsess about how much they weigh

Ok so she's had some flak for her comments, particularly around obesity being associated with lower incomes (statistically correct), but I'm glad someone is brave enough to level this criticism at the british people.

We all need to take responsibility for the distorted attitudes to food that mean we as a nation are more overweight than ever and that some kids now get to junior school without knowing what a vegetable is or how to eat with a knife and fork.

A good food culture is vital for the nations health and encouraging healthy eating habits in each other and in children is the key way to achieve this.

Teach your children about food, nutrition and how to cook and eat, encourage your friends and family to cook and enjoy healthy food. Treat cooking for others and sharing food as the joyous occasion it should be and take time over your meals, even when they are on your own. Put thought and care into the food you buy and the impact it will have on your body as well as the environment and above all take responsibility for what and how you eat - everything we do in life is a decision we have made, so be mindful in all your choices.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Simple salmon

Whilst our ski trips often involved catered chalets, this week is self-catered, which is nice in that it lets us choose the food and we take it in turns to cook a nice meal for the group (good for those of us who enjoy cooking).

Of course I try and keep things healthy so this evening I served up salmon.  Salmon is a great health food as it's full of omega 3 essential fats, that most of us don't get enough of in our diets, plus most people like the taste and texture, when other fish might put them off.  I recommend eating salmon 1-3 times a week, wild if possible or otherwise organic if you can get it.

I'm happy to eat salmon plain, but if you're catering for people who are used to everything having a sauce then a marinade can be a good way to make it a bit more appealing. Tonight I used the honey-dijon marinade from this gordon ramsay recipe  to prepare the salmon and it went down a treat.  If you're not that adept in the kitchen, this is a really easy recipe when feeding friends or family.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

My snow survival kit

I have many things to thank Ms Haribo for, not least for saving me from being a disastrous skier and introducing me to snowboarding!!  I might still be shocking at it, but I have alot of fun trying!

A winter snow holiday is also a great opportunity to holiday with friends, get some fresh air and exercise and for many to enjoy a week of hearty eating -- crepes, raclette, afternoon cake and tea, and the most delicious pralines we could ever find.  Not so good for eating gluten and dairy free though.

So here are my key snowboarding supplies to keep me fuelled for the slopes:

Gluten-free bread, actually now available in French supermarkets, for breakfast or afternoon toast with tea.

Gluten-free pita breads, much easier to make sandwiches with than bread - I make pita sandwiches with  smoked salmon and salad between two toasted pita bread. These pack nice and flat into my Camelbak.

A Camelbak water carrier  for plenty of easy access fluids to keep you hydrated on the go (note to Ms Haribo - there's a lock on the camelbak tube to stop it leaking everywhere if you squash it!).

Easy snacks for your snowboarding bag: Tescos mini nut or fruit and nut selectiosn (always on 3 for 2), Nak'd bars, raisin boxes, also if you're not gluten free Trek bars are great.

Rice cakes for healthy afternoon snacks if you want to feel virtuous whilst everyone eats cake, again available in French supermatkets. I pack some almond or cashew butter in my bag to have as a tasty topping, with sliced banana, or I top with a little honey, or some mashed up avocado with a pinch of salt.

Herbal tea bags - I keep things caffeine free on hols, not least because I don't want to have to pee after every run!! Lemon & ginger, or rooibos with soya milk (again available in the local Spa) keep me feeling warm and toasty before and after a day on the slopes.

Whilst you're out and about your choices can be somewhat limited. I tend to stick to omelettes with plain chips if we're lunching out and in the evening go for fish or seafood salad.  For a hot drink go for  Citron Chaud presse which is fresh lemon juice in hot water - delicious and a fresh supply of vitamin C.    A hot spiced apple juice also proved a total hit with our group, despite the fact it didn't contain any alcohol!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Man vs snack food

Some of our holiday party have managed to turn our evening meal into an episode of 'Man vs Food' and, I'm supposing to give themselves some inspiration, have taken to watching clips of the show on youtube.

If you're not familiar with it, I wasn't, this show involves the presenter Adam Richman facing the most unbelievable eating challenges against the clock, including eating a 72 ounce steak with chips in 60 minutes, 8oz is a regular sized steak!

How does he, or my holiday pals for that matter, manage to eat so much food in such a short space of time? Well our stomachs are amazingly expandable ... from an evolutionary perspective we need to be able to eat food when it's available incase we then face a food shortage.  These days a food shortage is rare, especially when you have a chalet full of snack food, so we don't really need to make use of our stretchy stomachs.

That's why when eating any food, treat or otherwise, we need to be mindful of not stretching our stomachs to the limit. The volume of food we need to eat in one sitting will differ at different times of day and depending on the kind of food eaten.  But in essence 2-3 times the volume of your fist should be sufficient for a proper meal.  Try plating up the right volume, then don't let yourself go back for seconds ... unless of course you're a professional competitive eater!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Beating your naughty nemesis

Hello readers!

Apologies for going AWOL, I got caught up in the snow induced travel chaos, and inbetween switching flights and airports I didn't get a chance to blog.  Holidays also mean I'm off my January daily habits and having a week long break where treat holiday food is allowed, although three days into it I'm already craving some vegetables and rice!!

It's funny how much you can crave junk food when you ban it from your diet, but if you aren't used to it and have it a few days running you'll quickly feel it's effects and not want to touch the stuff!! This is why short detox diets are such a great idea, you get the great feeling you get of having a clean diet, clear head, clean body ... then when you then go back to a regular diet you'll find yourself feeling more tired, lethargic, bloated.  Really feeling this contrast in effects can be very motivating in keeping your diet clean.

If you can't face a full detox you can do a mini version with any food that is your vice ... cut out coffee, chocolate, biscuits, crisps, sweets, whatever your naughty nemesis is, for a week, knowing that at the end of the week you can go back to eating it.  Just one week off is manageable for most people.  At the end of the week, before you let yourself have your treat, have a think about how you've felt that week, did you feel better? was it good to take a break from that food?  If you feel better consider restricting it as a treat, perhaps just for weekends, or days when you really need a pick me up.

Treat this exercise like a warm up for lent -  self-restraint is like a muscle that you need to exercise, start with something small and build up!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Thankyou 2

Today's task is to show gratitude and say thankyou to someone.

Showing gratitude is not just nice for other people, it's good for you - try saying thank you to everyone you meet tomorrow for any help they give or have given you. I guarantee you'll get a great reaction end the day feeling warm and fuzzy.

But I think it's also very important to show gratitude to ourselves. With a few exceptions most of us are our harshest critics and judge ourselves numerous times every day.

Whilst some insight and self-criticism is healthy to keep our egos and behaviour in check, a lot of us need to show ourselves a bit more love.

So today write down everything you like about yourself, ignore the negatives - you might think you have a muffin top, but you've got great legs! You may think you don't work hard enough at the gym, but you have done a good workout this week. Include positive personality traits, do you have a positive outlook? Who have you cheered up lately?

Limiting yourself to only writing down the positives will give you a much sunnier outlook and you'll find you start to accentuate these good points and exercise more of your good traits than you did before.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

My favourite place in the world

It's not a beautiful beach, it's not some picturesque countryside spot ... it's my bed!

I love to sleep, I wish I could do it more .. and today's task gives me the perfect excuse, as it's to have an early night and wake feeling refreshed the next day.

In an ideal world we'd all go to bed so early that we'd wake up naturally before our alarms went off in the morning. If you ever do this you'll find it's alot easier to get out of bed than when your alarm goes off mid deep in sleep.  Sadly we dont' live in an ideal world so that's not possible for alot of us, but just do it at least one weeknight a week and you'll be amazed how much better you feel.

Sleep is so important for health, it helps you live longer, think smarter, recover quicker, age slower, deal with stress better, stay slimmer, look younger and feel more energetic.  I don't think it needs much of a sell. But it's so easy to neglect, so make it your priority to try and get more sleep, even just an extra half an hour can cumulatively make a big difference.

And on that note I'm off to bed!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Super smoothies

Today's task was to do some endorphin producing exercise and follow it with a hydrating smoothie.

I find that it takes a good half hour of cardio exercise to get the endorphins to kick in, and if you can manage 45-60 mins you'll really get a buzz.

The flipside is that it's very easy to crash afterwards and that's why getting in some carbs 15-20mins after your cool down is key. If you miss this window you're likely to flag in energy 60-120 minutes afterwards and then have a raised appetite for the next 24hours.

So if you find yourself really hungry the day after a big gym session then you're not getting enough carbs post training.

Fruit smoothies make a great post-training fix. Blend up some ice with some tropical fruit for some fast carbs, with some berries for antioxidants, add some flax for efas and a handful of spinach (you won't taste it with the fruit). For protein add a scoop of whey or rice protein powder et voila, you have an antioxidant carb and protein rich smoothie.

Obviously that's easy if you train at home, but if you're out and about there are lots of great places like crrush where you can get something similar. I bought a fresh mango and soya protein shake at my gym this morning having run into work. Go for the dairy free option when you can (whey protein should be ok if you just have lactose intolerance).

As an at desk option pick up a bottled smoothie (innocent, m+s, pret all do good ones), drink a couple of inches out the top and then add a couple of heaped teaspoons of protein powder you can keep in a tupperware in your desk. Put the lid on, give it a good shake and drink! Easy!

Monday, 14 January 2013


Ok so I've found my hat and gloves plus the daily bites January calendar and it appears I have a bit of catching up to do.

Friday's task was to make a big pot of chicken or veggie broth to drink over the weekend for super immunity. It's actually been proven that as well as being good for the soul chicken soup does help fight off colds and flus - a combination of something filling and warming to help keep your temperature up, and eating something nutritious and easy to digest.

Whilst friday night might not feel like a night for healthy food, if you're in and can cook up a big pot of something healthy you'll have an easy couple of meals for saturday and sunday and be much less likely to go totally off piste with your diet. If you're still trying to shift some holiday weight do a weekend mini detox - make up a big pot of watercress soup (thicken with new potato and flavour with veg stock) and eat only that and fresh fruit and veg from friday night til Sunday night and start the week with a spring in your step and a couple of pounds lighter.

Saturdays tip was to plan your meals out for the week ahead. I'm not great at this as I like to tune into how I feel and eat accordingly, but it is worth having a think of some healthy recipes you might want to cook up during the week to make sure you have the ingredients you need. An empty fridge is a sure path to the biscuit tin.

Sundays tip was to have a natural treat of a date stuffed with sunflower butter (or use a nut butter if you prefer). As you'll know if you've read my blog for a while I'm pretty anti-sugar. If we all stopped eating it we'd be thinner, have better skin, live longer, have less heart disease, get less colds, suffer from less mood swings/anxiety/depression ... the list goes on. So do yourself a massive favour and give up the white stuff!

I'm not going to lie to you - it is hard, but so worthwhile, so to make it easier you need to let yourself indulge in some more natural and less addictive alternatives - dried fruit is naturally super sweet, particularly dates, and tropical fruit is also a super sweet treat. If you're partial to some baked goodies it's time to acquaint yourself with agave syrup and make some non-sugar cookies (see for recipes).

Finally today's task is to not just dream it, but to do it! I'm a big believer in 'just do it' mentality, when I find myself procrastinating I remind myself of this and get my skates on. When it comes to healthy there's a few examples:
- umming and aahing about going to the gym - stop thinking and just go, you can think yourself out of anything so don't give your mind the time to talk you out of it

- when you find yourself day dreaming about your goals, whether it's weight loss, fitness, learning to cook, stop staring out the window and take some action immediately - book a cooking class, go for a run, do an ocado order of loads of healthy foods

- if you find your brain debating if you should eat something naughty or healthy recognize that's what you're doing and default to the healthy option to end the debate - once you get in the habit you'll avoid many a trip to the office vending machine

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The big move

I moved house this weekend so I'm sure you'll all forgive me the brief blog. Hallie's January to do list got packed in a box and I've no idea where it is/what's on it!

Moving house, changing job, getting married or divorced, and having a bereavement are the big five in terms of life's stressful events. Sadly we can't avoid them and for some reason I've observed that they tend to come in pairs.

If you've been through any of these in the last twelve months it's important you recognize how stressful this event was, the toll it's taken on you emotionally and physicially and to make some effort to counteract these effects.

My move was relatively unstressful compared to others I've done, but still I've cleared my social schedule for the next few weeks in favour of some well paced unpacking, some yoga, a lot of early nights and the odd relaxing beauty treatment. I'm also upping my intake of b vits and magnesium and will be using my juicer to max out my veg intake.

After a while I'll find myself feeling restless and itching to go out on the town which will be my sign that I'm over the move and can move on!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Thank you...

Today's task is to write a thank you note or two.  If you haven't done your Christmas thank yous that's an easy one to tick off the list, but writing a brief note to aunty Mable to thank her for the socks isn't really the point.  Expressing gratitude is actually a great way to spread some good feeling and take yourself out of your own worries. You don't have to get the quill out and pen a note, it's actually nicer to thank people in person, but even a thank you text or email is nice to receive and takes two minutes to write.

Expressing appreciation or gratitude to others, not just for presents but for acts of kindness, support you've been shown, fun times you've had, helps us appreciate the importance of relationship with others and get a bit of perspective on our own lives.  Most of us are caught up in our own thoughts and worries and so can neglect our relationships with others and instead over-worry about our own little life bubbles.

Worrying unnecessarily doesn't do you any good, infact it's positively bad for you.  Those negative thought patterns create a physiological stress response, this means elevated blood pressure, insulin production and disregulated blood sugar, suppressed immunity, suppressed digestion ... in the long run worry can create genuine ill health.  So whilst doing nice things for others and showing appreciation might seem an altruistic act, it's actually just a healthy habit.

It's also worth as a separate exercise writing a note of gratitude for yourself.   List everything you're happy with in your life and everything you're grateful for.  We all have alot to be grateful for, the basics of food, a comfortable home, the benefits of good relationships, life's little luxuries - nice clothes, cars, holidays, hobbies we enjoy, having good health - even if it's not perfect it's probably much better than alot of peoples.  Focussing on the positives in your life will help give some context to the aspects that you're not happy with and overall reduce your stress levels.

I for one am grateful for all the people who read my blog, everyone who's recommended me to someone else, everyone who's encouraged and supported me along the way to study and practice nutrition and to spread the word on living a healthy life, so thank you to all of you!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Everyday energizers

I'm not doing very well on this weeks tasks - having failed to make a smoothie yesterday I then today was not able to fit in some endorphin boosting exercise which was today's challenge.

To be fair, not only was I short on time but I also wasn't feeling up to it. Having burnt out along time ago from excessive exercise and too little sleep, I've learnt to pick up the early signs of when I may be overdoing things and backoff rather than pushing myself and ending up exhausted.

So based on this experience I wouldn't recommend everyone exercises everyday. I would however recommend doing something that is restorative/gives you energy 30-60minutes a day. This could be exercise of varying intensity depending on how you feel, but this could also be doing some yoga or one of the following: using your gym's spa facilities, having a relaxing treatment such as accupuncture or massage, relaxing at home (watching tv doesn't count) - having a long bath, reading a book, even having a snooze if you're short on sleep.

Tuning into what your body needs/is capable of, will help you achieve a balance between doing things that are energizing, rather than draining, keeping you feeling full of beans rather than burnt out.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Smoothie starter

I didn't get a chance to read today's entry for the Daily Bites January calendar until just now, but really wish I'd had a chance to read it earlier and put it into practice, as it was to try a new smoothie recipe.

Having eaten out for both lunch and dinner today I feel a little stodgy and a healthy smoothie would have been a great start to the day to try and mitigate my later meals.  Still it's one to store up and use at a later date, particular because it's called the Coconut “Kale-ada” Smoothie and anything with coconut and pineapple in it is a winner with me!!

I have already resolved to have more fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies as part of my new year health kick.  The first time I read Jason Vales Slim for Life
 I went juicing mad and had a fresh juice every morning.  I certainly felt great for it, but like lots of my health kicks, in the long run I gradually lost my dedication. I now try and always have a veg juice on the weekend whilst I wait for my breakfast to cook, but I'm going to be adding in a couple of juices in the evenings too whilst I cook my dinner.

Juices and smoothies are such an easy way to up your fruit and veg intake, which isn't just amazing for your health in terms of all the nutrients and raw enzymes that you get from them, but also has a wonderful weight loss effect. By  starting a meal with a nutritious juice you'll find your appetite for your main course goes down alot, and over time having a more nutrient rich diet your appetite in general will decrease, as hunger is often the body seeking more vitamins and minerals, rather than more calories. So if you can try starting a meal with a smoothie and reap the rewards!