Diet

Is Going Gluten Free The Answer?


Gluten. In or Out?In my continuing quest to discover what “ultimate health” is all about and maybe see if I could shed a few pounds in the process, I recently tried a gluten-free period of eating. This meant that I ate no gluten-containing food stuffs such as wheat, barley and rye for 3 weeks. I was led to try this after having listened to many of ‘The Thyroid Sessions‘ webinars, where experts came together to discuss thyroid health and the various ways in which people suffering from thyroid disorders can help themselves. One of these such discussions claimed that (don’t quote me on exact numbers, this was the general gist of it) around 90% of people with thyroid issues also have some form of gluten sensitivity. That fact hit me right in the neck (the neck – where the thyroid is located – get it?!). If you’re not aware of my situation, I have an under-active thyroid, I was diagnosed with it around 6 years ago. So what I wondered was – could this claim mean that I may possibly improve my thyroid health, thereby reducing the amount of drugs I take for it? Maybe it would help me lose those last few pounds that refuse to leave my body? It was worth a shot.

As my trial of eating a gluten-free diet began, I switched my regular morning oats for either quinoa with blueberries or for gluten-free muesli. No problem there, easy peasy, and the best bit was that I realised that the quinoa breakfast actually filled me up for way longer than my old breakfast of porridge (oats are not themselves gluten-containing but most oats you buy CAN be cross-contaminated by other crops or at the factory so you need to buy gluten-free oats if you wish to continue with porridge). Another change I made was not having any bread, as this is made from wheat flour. This was not so much of a problem for me as I don’t eat bread more than once a week anyway. For lunch I would have an enormous salad with greens, chopped veg, salmon and quinoa, or maybe a chicken breast with 3 different veggies on the side. Following that I would have a small portion of fruit, to satisfy my sweet tooth and save myself from ‘needing’ my usual afternoon cup of Options Hot Chocolate. In the evening I would make a nice steak with garlic sautéed veggies, or a turkey/minced beef chilli with brown rice, or a chicken & lentil curry. And if was hungry between meals I just grabbed an apple with a little cashew or almond butter. Any whole foods that didn’t contain gluten were a go for my trial.

As I began, I steadily lost 0.2-0.4 lbs most days, which was nice to see on the scales. (more…)

Vegetables – The Miracle Fat Loss Food


Roasted Butternut Squash

2, 3, 5, 10 a day? How many portions of vegetables do you eat on a daily basis? My guess is that it varies from day to day but averages around 3-6, a portion being approximately half a cup of cooked or 1 cup of raw veggies. If you’re reading this post, the chances are that you are healthier than most, or at least have a greater awareness of what healthy eating looks like (or you’re my husband, who is forced to read all my posts anyway!). I want to take a few moments to try to spell out the beauty of vegetables, not only how good they are for your health, but how even more valuable they are when on a weight or fat loss plan. Later on in this post I will show you how you can use vegetables to your advantage to help you in your quest to shed the fat!

Vegetables have some really great culinary and nutritional properties, such as:

  • having very varied flavours and textures
  • containing many vitamins & minerals
  • containing lots of fibre
  • having low amounts of sugar, helping keep blood sugar levels stable
  • being easily digestible
  • containing very few calories per portion compared to similar amounts of other foods

That last point above is the killer punch that vegetables pack, which makes them a very powerful tool in your arsenal when planning a menu for weight-/fat-loss. I’ll say it again – cup for cup, vegetables contain fewer calories per portion than other foods. What this really means is you can eat a shed load of vegetables for not a lot of calories. And who wouldn’t want to eat large amounts of food that has no adverse effect on their waistline?! One cup of vegetables contains just 30 to 80 calories, depending on the variety (to be clear, we are NOT including white potatoes in this discussion – yes they are a vegetable but they are another story – useful in your diet possibly yes, but not for the context that I’m talking about). Vegetables are also nutrient-dense – you get the most amount of nutrients packed in small amounts of food. So not only can you pile them onto your plate without adding hundreds of extra calories, you are also getting the maximum amount of nutrition at the same time. Vegetables are sounding even more attractive aren’t they?

So let’s assume you agree to put more vegetables on your plate in place of other less-nutritious items, what other positive effects does this have? (more…)

Rose & Goji Berry Raw Chocolates – To DIE For!


Raw Chocolates

So the picture above means you already want to make these for yourself, right?! And so you should! These solid dark chocolates remind me of a Turkish paradise (ok, a ‘Turkish Delight’ paradise anyway) and as you crunch into them you find the delicate flavour of rose and also little chewy pieces of goji berries, all tantalising your taste buds. It’s a sensation not to be missed I promise. These are only my second venture into the world of raw chocolate making, so I’m pretty pleased they came out looking like this and also tasted so great!

After watching a programme on TV about raw chocolate making, where they showed a quick overview of the process and the types of ingredients involved, but didn’t give any quantities of each, I decided I would just have a go for myself. As with most times I decide to ‘try’ something,  I just winged the quantities and added a few of my own ingredients, weighing and writing them down in case I came up with a genius recipe I’d want to repeat. The first batch were not bad, but they weren’t perfect – they didn’t have that ‘snap’ that chocolate has when it’s bitten into or broken apart, being softer than they should be. I put this down to two things – firstly I added quite a quantity of coconut oil which, as you probably know, is fairly soft even when in its solid state; secondly, I went overboard adding powdered ingredients, so the liquid was swamped and therefore couldn’t ‘set’ into a solid again. Oh and finally, I didn’t reheat the chocolate mixture to enable it to set with a lovely glossy coat. Lessons learned. Moving on to my second batch…

(Before I go on I should say sorry to my friend Jenny, who got some of the first batch but still insisted they were lovely! The second batch was MUCH better I’m pleased to say – as verified by 2 other friends – and this is what I’m sharing with you today.)

Armed with the knowledge of how NOT to make a crisp chocolate, I started over, this time with less powdered ingredients and MUCH less coconut oil.

This is my recipe for Rose and Goji Berry Raw Chocolates.

Ingredients (makes about 30 chocolates, depending on mould size used):

Healthy Fats – How Much To Eat and In What Form?


Confused about how much fat you should eat per day? And in what form?

Nutritional guidelines say that we should eat no more than 20% of our daily calories in the form of fat, and that no more than 6% should be saturated fats. Of the rest, we should be consuming mostly polyunsaturated fats (Omega-3 and Omega-6) and monounsaturated fats (e.g. olive oil).

The so-called ‘essential fats’ that the body needs are Omega-6 and Omega-3, and the ideal ratio of these according to some research is 1:1. With the rise of processed and fried foods, these ratios are often shockingly skewed towards the Omega-6 side, meaning that more people are likely suffering from diseases related to inflammation in the body, such as arthritis and dementia. Eating a ratio closer to 1:1 means that our bodies and brains are better protected against these previously mentioned diseases as well as having less chance of developing cardiovascular disease.

So how do we ensure we get both these fats on a daily basis? Here’s one way, as illustrated in my handy graphic. Flax seeds contain Omega-3, whereas sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds all contain Omega-6. Add a tablespoon of the ground seed mixture to your daily diet and you’re good to go where your essential fats are concerned! It really is that simple!

Omega-6 to Omega-3 Fat Ideal Ratio

 

Please share if you have friends who may also benefit from this easy guide.

Hope you all had a great long weekend. I’ll be celebrating my birthday tomorrow! I think a new kitchen gadget is on its way… 🙂

Janice.

Don’t Be A Workout Tart (and other resolutions)


Hello again and Happy New Year to you all! It’s been a while since I last posted but I wanted to wait just a few more days, until most of the New Year craziness was out of the way and people were glad to be getting back into the normal swing of life.

I, like I would imagine most of you at the turn of the year, had been pondering what I might do differently this year. What might I try to improve on that I did not master last year? How might I still further improve my health and fitness levels to a point where I am happy with the things I am doing and the results I am achieving?

I want to use this post to put down my personal health & fitness resolutions. These are the things that I want to work on for myself this year, and for the future beyond that. So here they are:

  1. Don’t be a workout tart. Instead of falling in love with every new programme that comes out and constantly swapping to the next big thing, never giving the current beau a fair chance, I want to stick with one workout programme for a few months and really see if I can get some good results from it. I don’t want to allow myself to be swayed by what other people are doing or what the latest hot-off-the-press programme is.
  2. Choose healthy alternatives to fulfil any cravings. For example, if I’m craving chocolate, just have 1-2 squares of very dark chocolate or make a cup of hot cocoa. If I want something salty or savoury, have a lightly salted rice cake with a little cottage cheese or nut butter. And so on. I need to make sure I always have alternatives to hand because if I’m not prepared I may choose the not so good option. You make ask what the not so good options are doing in my house anyway… well they’re largely not but it’s not just me who lives here you know 😉 Maybe I just need to work on my willpower 😉
  3. Nutrition over everything. I still truly believe that the nutrition you put into your body reflects on everything else about you, your mind, body, skin, hair, mood, attitude, energy, immunity and overall health. So this one is not so much a resolution but more of a reminder to myself to always try to put good quality, nutritious food into my body, in order to get the most back from it, in terms of continued good health both now and in the future.

 

I want to expand on number one as this is quite a big deal for me. As some of you may know I’ve had to give up heavy weight training due to my trigger finger – when I grip dumbbells for too long, my middle finger on my left hand invariably locks & clicks the next day and for a few days after, which is no fun. I’ve already had one cortisone injection that worked for about 3 months and I could have another, but after 3 injections I know the only option is surgery, which I would like to avoid if at all possible! So I’ve had to look for a workout that will still tone & shape my body but that doesn’t rely on dumbbells for the most part. And I think I’ve found it!!!

Terri WalshSo, in line with resolution number 1, I will aim to stick to my new workout-of-choice, which is in the main Terri Walsh’s A.R.T. Method, for at least 4 months, before I decide if I will continue, depending if I have some good results from it. I am truly hopeful that this method really will work out well for me, I’ve only done 5 workouts to date but when I do it I feel strong, powerful and like I have no end to my enthusiasm. I also feel my muscles on fire, which is also a good sign 😉  I’m not trying to create huge muscles, I just want to feel a little more toned around the middle and rear. The classes I’m doing are Terri’s Online Virtual Classes, filmed in her New York studio, so it’s like having a real instructor there but in your own home. For the exercises that use dumbbells I may be able to use wrist weights some of the time, and others I will just try not to ‘grip’ so tightly and see how I go. If you want to try A.R.T. for yourself you can click here and do her sample ‘Quicktone’ class, which will tone your buns & thighs. The classes I’ve signed up for are mostly around 50 minutes long and I will report back how this workout is going in a future post. I have taken starting measurements & weight so I have something to compare to later, to judge whether it is a success for me.

ToniqueTo compliment my A.R.T. workouts I will also do a Tonique workout once a week, twice at most, which I believe will enhance my endurance and also challenge my muscles in a different way, keep them guessing so to speak. Click here for a preview of the new Tonique Born To Move workouts that I will be doing.

This year I want to feel like I am dedicating the right amount of time and energy to both my workouts and to my love of all things nutrition-related. However, I don’t want to spend excessive amounts of time pouring over every new bit of information that comes out about these things, so I want to create that balance that will leave me fulfilled but not over-awed.

So that’s it for today, I just wanted to lay down my ground rules to myself and having them set out here means I will hopefully keep them in the forefront of my mind and will have a greater chance of success.

I hope you all thought about what you wanted to achieve this year too, and how you might change what you were doing last year into something better suited to you for 2013.

Stay healthy!

Janice.

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,

Janice.

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!

Janice.