Month: October 2012

Nutritious November – Who Is Up For The Challenge?

With only a couple of days left in October and only 9 weeks until 2013 (yikes!), I thought it was time for a challenge to take me through November and on to the holiday season.

So… say hello to Nutritious November!

More and more I find myself concentrating not on the ‘looking good’ part of healthy eating (as most people tend to), but on the nutrition and long term health benefits of it. With my mum’s health in decline, my reading has gone into overdrive, trying to find ways to help her through nutrition. Also, I’m still studying the final few modules of my diploma in nutrition, so I can tell you, I’m learning a LOT recently. One of the main points that keeps coming up is the fact that most diseases and health issues can be overcome or prevented from happening later in life by eating a diet rich in nutrients earlier on. I have read extensively around this topic, with one of my favourite authors on the subject being Patrick Holford.

Patrick, in his book ‘The Optimum Nutrition Bible’, outlines what we can all do to not only improve our current health situation but also assist in long term disease prevention. Most of his ideas are not radical, but he has always been ahead of his time, so some might find it hard to believe that simply changing what you eat can totally transform your life and future prospects. I encourage anyone to take a look at his book, it’s a very interesting read. Or if you don’t want to splash out on a book, you can access his online resources with a wealth of information, including his A-Z of Nutrition, which can be found here. Just look up something you’re suffering from, whether it be poor concentration, acne, sleepless nights, you’ll soon find that his recommended treatments often include vitamins & minerals, found in fruits & vegetables.

So anyway, with all this in mind, I have becoming increasingly conscious of trying to get as many fruits & vegetables into my diet as possible recently. They say make sure you get your 5-a-day, but I say, well what about if we up the anti and say let’s try to get 10-a-day! Imagine the possibilities for your body if you feed it and nourish it constantly. How much more energy could we have? How much clearer would our skin be? How much more immunity from infections would we have? And very importantly, how much more protected would we be from illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia and so on? 10-a-day is not so unachievable is it? Let me demonstrate.

For a few weeks now I have been starting the day with a green smoothie (average 3-4 fruit/veg) before my morning porridge, which has given me so much energy right throughout the day. The green smoothie, combined with the pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, ground flax seed and blueberries (another 1 fruit) mixed into my oats has sent my daytime energy levels soaring and has meant that the morning dropsies and drowsy afternoons are a thing of the past. For lunch I try to add a few more vegetables to my daily intake, with either a large salad (3-4 more vegetables) with chicken or fish, or some leftovers from the night before. And for my evening meal it’s usually a quickly stir-fried set of different coloured vegetables (3 or 4 more vegetables) with either oven baked salmon or chicken. Ok, sometimes I’m  not always so great at this, or I’ve simply run out of vegetables, so I resort to something else such as cous cous or some homemade soup out of the freezer. But on a typical ‘good’ day, I have probably clocked up around 10-12 different fruits & vegetables. This is usually balanced towards around 2-3 fruits and 8-9 vegetables, which is the right proportion if you don’t want to take on board  too much sugar.

So my challenge to anyone who wants to take it up is this… see if you can consistently eat yourself through a rainbow of 10 fruits and vegetables every day throughout November. If you’re up for the challenge, please post the “I’m taking part in Nutritious November” poster (left) onto your Facebook and tell the world, encourage friends to join in too, who knows, it might just catch on 😉  And ok, if you can’t manage 10, then how about 8 or even 6? Just one small, conscious effort to eat those extra one or two of vitamin-rich fruits or vegetables could make the difference you’ve been looking for.

If you think about it, this is the perfect challenge – not only do you get to feel great by the time the holiday season is in full swing, the chances are you may have lost a couple of pounds too, but by doing this for a whole month you’re far more likely to stick to it throughout December and get a head start on all those annual January dieters too. What better motivation though than your health. It’s the one thing that you don’t realise how precious it is until it’s failing you (or your family around you).

So who is with me? Who will at least TRY to get their 10-a-day?

To help you decide WHICH 10-a-day (or 6) you might want to concentrate on eating, have a look at Patrick Holford’s A-Z of symptoms, or to learn more about which fruits & vegetables contain which vitamins, check out this site.

I will be updating you with my challenge efforts and I encourage you all to make a tick on a small piece of paper or in your diary every day, each time you eat a different fruit or vegetable. See how many you can clock up! I want to know your numbers and more importantly I want to know how you FEEL!!!

In health,



Quick Midweek Recipe – Soft Ginger Cookies

Today I was offered a lovely home-made ginger cookie by a friend at work, and I did taste one corner of it, and how lovely it was!!! So I thought I’d like to try to make my own much cleaner version of these cookies. I looked up a few recipes on the internet for both traditional full-fat ginger cookies and also some healthy-eating versions, and I chose a mish-mash of some of the ingredients I found, which as it turned out worked a treat, to give these gorgeous specimens:

They’re beautifully soft and cake-like inside, with a lovely kick of ginger. Here’s the recipe:


  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • ½ cup water + 1 extra tbsp. water
  • ½ cup pitted dates
  • 1 cup quick cook oats
  • 4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp. baking powder


  • Preheat oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4
  • Using a blender, mix the first 3 ingredients then add the dates and blend until the dates are finely chopped.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and blend again, the mixture will be fairly thick and quite coarse due to the oats and dates.
  • Grease an oven tray with a little coconut oil to prevent sticking then put dollops of one to two tablespoons of mixture all over the tray, leaving gaps between them for expansion while cooking.
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes, then serve hot or cold.


You should get about 9 cookies out of the recipe. Each cookie contains 74 calories, 13g carbohydrates, 2g protein, 2g fat (1g of which is saturated), 2g fibre.

Enjoy as a snack, keep them in a container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Yum yum! Hope you enjoy these as much as I did when I tasted them!


Diet – are we obsessing over it for the right reasons?

Are we a diet-obsessed population or are we just simply looking for and trying out the best ways to improve our health, our body image and our confidence?

I’ve had an interesting couple of weeks, diet-wise. With the circles of friends I move in on Facebook, mostly ladies interested in fitness, you can guarantee that the subject of diet comes up on a daily basis. In some way we are all looking for the answer to the eternal question,

“How can I look & feel better about myself?”

Although I think that is the question most people seek the answer to, having recently experienced my mum having a stroke and ending up on a ward full of people in the same predicament, being tended to by over-weight nurses who seemingly don’t make the connection between diet and stroke, I think the question that I am asking myself more and more is not the previous, somewhat superficial question but one more along the lines of,

“How can I best nourish myself so I look & feel great AND am healthy from the inside out, so I have the best chance of avoiding major illness as I age?”

A bit more of a mouthful but that’s pretty much what I’m aiming towards now.

Two weeks ago, right before my mum had a stroke, I was ‘lured’ (well, I decided to give it a try of my own accord actually!) into trying out a ‘ketogenic’ diet, which, for those who are not in the know (most people I imagine!) is said to be a type of fat-busting diet where you eat a high amount of fats and protein with minimal carbohydrates during the week then at weekends you have lots of carbs, some protein but low amounts of fat. The purpose of the alternating cycle of carbs/no carbs is to fuel your body back up and give your metabolism a kick for the next week of having virtually no carbs and therefore less readily-available energy, so the idea is that your body will have to rob its own fat stores to keep us going with. Bodybuilders use this technique to drop body fat, and the popular ‘Atkins Diet’ is based around the weekday technique of high fat, high protein, low carb to trick the body into eating up its own fat for energy, going into a state of so-called ‘ketosis’. Effectively you’re peeing out excess fat at this stage. What a thought!

I did this ketogenic diet for a grand total of… (drum roll)… 2 days!!! To be honest I wanted to try it because a group of girls I know were also doing it and some had good results from it. In those 2 days I did have a weight loss (not necessarily FAT loss, I didn’t measure) of just under 1 pound but it was other things I noticed from it that I was more interested in. For a start, the combination of eating protein + fat with only green vegetables meant that I had NO abdominal bloating, which I sometimes get when I eat protein + starchy carbs in the same meal. But the second thing that this type of diet is famed for is… constipation!!! And after 2 days I could already tell that this was where I was headed. Things were NOT moving as they should be, and to boot, I felt a few twinges of IBS pain in my lower gut, signalling that things were sat stagnating for too long. So that was the end of my keto diet trial. I know it works for some but it’s definitely not for me – I’m not trying to mimic a body builder, I’m not remotely interested in competing in bikini or figure competitions, so why do this? I gave it a try and then gave it up. The main concern for me was the amount of fat I was consuming, and not all of it had to be the healthy variety either. Even though I know the theory behind how your body uses the extra fat you’re feeding it and it makes sense, I worry about the longer term effects of a high fat diet such as this. And secondly, I’m 5 foot 2 and 7 stone 10 (108 lbs), I don’t NEED to lose weight by using unsustainable ‘diets’. I think we all want our body to look that little bit better, more toned, less puffy, however you put it, but I want it to be done in a safe and sure way. Health comes first.

And so after my mum returned from hospital and I had a little more time on my hands, I started reading a book I’d ordered the week before, Kimberley Snyder’s “Beauty Detox Solution”. For those of you not familiar with Kimberley, she is all about a natural diet, her aims are for us to ‘glow’ with beauty from the inside out, and she goes into great details of how we might achieve this by changing both WHAT we put in our mouths and the ORDER in which we put things in. And I was glad to read that one of her diet ‘rules’ is not to mix protein with starchy carbs in the same meal. Hurrah! I had already found that this was a thing I wanted to try more in my previous week’s diet experiment. In fact it’s a well known principle if you read up on the subject ‘food combining’, I just didn’t realize it was for me before now. She also advocates eating some greens before every meal, such as a leafy salad or some celery sticks etc. The theory behind this is that you provide your body with the most easily digestible foods first, so that they start to be digested before the ‘heavier’ food of your meal. Also, the greens contain lots of fibre, which not only ease the way through your digestive system for your other foods, but also line the stomach so that food is processed more slowly, giving you less chance of an insulin spike and maximum chance of obtaining all the nutrients from your food. She has lots of other principles she lives her life by (diet-wise), too many to go into details of all of them here.  But what I have taken from her book up to now (I’ve not finished reading yet) is that I can easily up my vegetable intake, and therefore my vitamin & mineral and fibre intake, by adding some greens before my meals. So, my first step towards this has been to have a green smoothie before my breakfast porridge. And today, 3 days in, I can report that I’m having a ‘thin day’, i.e. my tummy feels flatter. I also feel I have a little more energy rather than the morning slump I sometimes feel. So the green smoothies are here to stay, along with a few other changes I’m trying, in order to reach that goal of not only looking good but cleansing my body from the inside out, to give myself the best chance of a healthy future.

To get you started with the green smoothies, here my Easy Tasty Clean “Get Going Green Smoothie”,  which is the perfect introduction to green smoothies for those who want to being with something a little sweeter:

  • 500ml / 2 cups cold, filtered water
  • 120g / 4oz baby spinach leaves
  • 1 apple, cored, e.g. Golden Delicious
  • 1 pear, cored, e.g. Conference
  • 1 banana
  • Juice and insides of a lime

The above will make 3 portions, which can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days. Each portion contains 72 calories, 1g protein, 16g carbohydrates, 0.3g fat (0g saturated).

Once you’ve got to grips with the idea and taste of the sweeter green smoothies, you can start to replace some of the fruit with more vegetables, various salad leaves, roots such as ginger and even herbs like coriander (cilantro) and parsley. There’s no limit, only your imagination!

So, getting to the point of today’s post… I think people, women especially, are always interested to hear about the latest diet, the results people reportedly get from it and the excitement that they too may be able to lose a few pounds by trying it, but what matters most is that whatever we put into our mouths, it should contribute towards our overall health & beauty, and not detract from it. Diet should be a lifelong healthy choice, not today’s fad or an everlong obsession. Be interested in your diet for the right reasons, not always just because you might ‘look good’ if you eat this or that. If you’re dying on the inside, it’s not going to look good for your health in years to come, and then it really won’t matter that you looked fab in 2012.

Keep it healthy, keep it real!