Nutrition

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…)

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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…)

Blackcurrant, Banana & Chia Layered Breakfast Recipe


Yesterday I spotted a tub of frozen blackcurrants at the supermarket and could NOT resist buying them, as they are one of favourite fruits ever. I remember eating them in a not-so-healthy way when I was young, when I would buy a blackcurrant pie from the bakers and devour it as I walked around town, but these days I can do without all that pastry around the berries and just appreciate the fruit by itself!

Blackcurrants contain a high concentrations of vitamin C, with just 100 g of fresh blackcurrants providing more than 3 times the recommended daily intake. They’re also packed full of phyto-nutrients and anti-oxidants, providing health benefits such as protection against cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases. So what’s not to love about these deep purple packets of yumminess?

In this recipe I also use chia seeds, which are powerfully healthy little seeds of wonder! They contain a high concentration of Omega-3 essential fatty acids and are also full of amino acids (protein building blocks), providing another highly nutritious and important layer to this recipe.

I’m guessing (hoping!) that as you look at the picture below, you’re thinking, “Ooh, how do I put together that absolutely delicious looking breakfast dish?”.

Well wait no longer, the recipe is right below. I have split it into sections to make your preparation easier. It’s a great idea to make the blackcurrant jam and the chia date pudding at least an hour before you’re due to assemble the layered breakfast, so that they have cooled and absorbed the liquid respectively, in time. I made these two parts of the recipe in the evening then just layered everything up in the morning ready to eat.

Blackcurrant Banana Chia Layered Breakfast

Ingredients (serves 2):

Blackcurrant Jam Layer

  • Half a cup of blackcurrants (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 tbsp. sweetener of your choice, eg. agave nectar, maple syrup, stevia, date syrup etc.

Chia Date Pudding Layer:

  • 200ml (almost a cup) unsweetened almond or coconut milk
  • 3-4 dates
  • 3 tbsp. chia seeds

Other layers:

  • 1 banana
  • 170g pot Greek yogurt (I used 2% Fage but any will do)
  • ⅓ cup of your favourite granola mix (I used Lizi’s Low GI Granola)

Method:

  • Make the blackcurrant jam by heating the blackcurrants and sweetener in a pan on the stove top on a low heat, stirring until the blackcurrants fall apart somewhat, then tip the mixture into a food processor and whizz up until smooth. Set aside to cool then refrigerate.
  • Make the chia date pudding by whizzing up the dates with the milk in a blender or food processor (it doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth), then pour into a bowl with the chia seeds, mix well, cover and refrigerate for at least half an hour or overnight.
  • Layer up the breakfast by adding layers of sliced banana, Greek yogurt, blackcurrant jam and chia date pudding, until you are almost to the top of your dish/glass. Top with a sprinkle of granola and there you have a beautiful breakfast that will keep you full for hours and provide many nutrients, protein and healthy fats to start your day with.

Nutritional Info:

Per Serving: 403 calories 49g carbohydrates 14g fat (2g saturated) 12g protein

Of course if you can’t find blackcurrants you can swap them for blueberries, blackberries or raspberries and they will provide an equally tasty jam.

So there you have it, now there’s nothing stopping you from having a nutritious and delicious breakfast any day of the week!

Enjoy!

Janice.

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.

When Eating Clean Becomes a Way of Life – A Journey of Discovery


For those of use who have been eating clean for months or even years, we may not have realised it but this way of selecting natural, wholesome ingredients that are free from added sugar, salt and chemicals has probably become like second nature to us, it’s a way of life, it’s just what we do now. But how do you know when you’ve reached that point where you don’t have to think too much about it and how long does it take to get there? I’m going to look at what changes you need to make when you start your eating clean journey and how things might progress, until your eating and food-shopping habits are just a way of life, they’re just ingrained in you at root level. I also want to briefly ask the question, can we ever truly eat completely clean with the best will in the world, do we even need to, and if we miss the boat occasionally does it matter?

When I discovered eating clean a few years ago, it was at a time in my life when I had suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) for many years, that would leave me doubled over in agony at the intestinal contractions that were happening in my lower gut. I want to say that eating clean saved my life but that’s a little dramatic as I wasn’t exactly dying. In truth, eating clean did turn my life around from an existence where I would always be sure to have anti-spasmodic tablets with me and would get anxious at the thought of going anywhere out of the ordinary because of fear of an IBS attack, to a life that was relatively carefree and didn’t require me to worry about the embarrassment of an attack when in public. Once I started eating clean my symptoms subsided and a few months later I was celebrating not having had any IBS symptoms for weeks on end. Hurrah! The final single ingredient that I discovered that COMPLETELY made me pain free I will tell you about later in this post. (more…)

Did Social Media Make Us Healthier?


Before I get to the bulk of the post, I just want to check on how everyone did in Nutritious November? Did you all try for at least SOME of the time to get your 10 fruits & vegetables a day in? I certainly did and am in no hurry to change things now. I realise that 10-a-day is completely do-able and in fact very easy and incidentally extremely tasty! I’ve been having one juice every day, which adds a few F&V to the total, and throughout this month I have definitely noticed my skin feeling smoother, tighter and less liable to break-outs. So I am declaring Nutritious November a success!!! Hurrah for fruits & vegetables and long may I continue getting my 300+ of them every month.

Social MediaNow, what I want to know is, did social media make us healthier? I mean, you’re reading this now, and if you’re subscribed to this blog or have stumbled upon it and are reading it then I’m guessing you have at least a passing interest in keeping healthy, if not a great obsession with it (like me, ha ha). And what is a blog? It’s a form of social media. I write, you read, you maybe comment, we interact, it’s sociable!

When I started getting more and more interested in becoming fitter and healthier 2-3 years ago I wasn’t making many appearances on Facebook, it honestly didn’t interest me that much, as I was only viewing my ‘news feed’ (which is the stuff your ‘friends’ post). But most of this ‘news’ was so uninteresting and inconsequential to me, like did I really need to know that so-and-so had gone to bed at 9pm last night, or that such-a-body had enjoyed their dinner?! No not really!!! But as I later found out, there is much more to Facebook than what your friends are up to.

Enter Facebook Groups and ‘Like’ Pages.

After I started working out to the Tracy Anderson Method DVDs, I searched online for information about my new favourite thing and encountered a couple of Facebook ‘Groups’, which I then joined, to talk about our shared interest. Through these pages I found out so much information, met a few nice girls (one of whom lives locally and I now count as a real life, in person, true friend) and I think enhanced my understanding of not only Tracy Anderson’s practices, but about other things fitness- and nutrition-related too. Through one or more contacts in these groups I managed to broaden my horizons and joined another couple of groups, this time of girls who were not only doing the Method but also trying other fitness programs.

As you probably know, the power of social media is immense, and before long this effect snowballed and I bumped into lots of very interesting and some knowledgeable people. Soon enough I was socialising in circles of people interested in lifting weights and clean eating. Today I choose a weights-based strength training program that really shapes my muscles, but I only came round to this way of training again via the various channels of social media. As you know, I am a big advocate of clean eating and this helps show off the new shape I have created for myself. In all honesty I would’ve NEVER written Easy Tasty Clean (my recipe book on clean eating) if I hadn’t ventured onto Facebook, joined those Groups and met so many people with a common interest. The rest, as they say, is history.

Through Facebook Groups and ‘Like’ Pages and other tools such as people’s blogs, Pinterest boards and health & fitness websites, I truly feel like I have access to such an immense knowledge of this area of interest that I could not have even dreamt of, had I not made my first tentative venture into that first Facebook Group. I’m now so interested in health, food, fitness and all things related that not only have I written my own recipe book, but I am also studying to become a fully qualified Nutritionist. I can only attribute these things to the power of social media and the internet in stimulating my interest to a deeper level. So, I conclude that I truly believe that:

Social Media has made us healthier!!!

It has me anyway.

What’s your view on how the internet influences our everyday lives today? Do you do things today that you didn’t do a few years ago, just because you have found friends with common interests through social media or the internet as a whole? Do you think the internet is a good thing or does it make us do things we wouldn’t normally do (and I don’t mean lose the ability to interact verbally!), and therefore are we not the people we would’ve been had we NOT had the social media play a part in our lives? Who can say.

Either way, I think the internet is here to stay, whether in its current form or the unknown guise of tomorrow, so we had better embrace it and use it to our advantage, however that may be.

Have a great weekend, and tomorrow I will be back as have a surprise for you all, which might just help out with the Christmas shopping.

Keep up the good work!

Janice.

To Juice Or To Blend – That Is The Question


The other day I was involved in a discussion comparing juicing to blending (aka smoothies) and which was best. I carefully considered both points of view and for me personally, I felt that blending was better. Let me tell you how I came to this conclusion and what thoughts I’ve had since that are maybe challenging my opinions.

I used to juice A LOT ! And I mean every day. I was a fruit-juice-aholic for a good couple of years about 7 or 8 years ago. My favourite juice involved apples & oranges with various other inclusions such as strawberries, melon or blueberries. I loved the creaminess that the pith of the oranges gave to the juice, and the juice was always a taste sensation, no matter what went into it. At the time I was struggling with irritable bowel issues and thought that juicing would help ease the symptoms by cleansing my colon. I think I would’ve juiced even more, had I not found the whole thing quite expensive, as you pack a helluvalot of fruit/veg into a single juice drink.

So the discussion the other day got me to thinking why I prefer blending my fruits & vegetables these days, and I argued that it was firstly so I didn’t lose all the fibre that is contained in the peel and the internals of the fruits & veggies, but secondly I argued that a lot of the nutrients were contained in or just beneath the skin of fruits, so I didn’t want to waste that. After having done some more reading into this, I still believe both these points to be true, but maybe juicing does actually extract the nutrients more than I thought, as it literally pushes all the goodness out of the produce, just leaving the fibrous pulp behind.

Since then I’ve been thinking about juicing more, and how lovely it is, the smooth, fresh juice, not a lump or bit of stringy pith in sight, so so pure. So what’s a girl to do when she longs after those juicing days again? JUICE! That’s what!

So today, I thought I’d make the most simple juice of all out of 2 small apples, 2 large carrots, an orange and half a lemon. Only the orange and lemon were half-peeled before being added to the juicer (I like some of the bitterness of the citrus peel to come through in the juice), and what I got was a sumptuous, deeply coloured juice, that tasted out of this world. Here it is.

But then I saw all the leftovers sat there, looking so colourful and perfectly finely shredded. I put them on the scales and weighed them. Guess how much? An unbelievable 300g (11 oz) of ‘waste’ to produce one 300ml drink!!! I felt uncomfortable at the thought of disposing of all this amazing fibre and vitamins. I pondered over them then thought, wait a minute, I can use these. So I modified one of my clean cake recipes and produced a lovely carrot and orange cake, using up almost all the ‘waste’ from the juicing. So I still get all my vitamins AND my fibre! Win win!

So maybe my opinion of juicing has shifted from being a somewhat wasteful process that loses lots of valuable fibre and nutrients, to one that embraces the whole of the foods and tries to use them in a way that gains the very most out of them. Maybe juicing offers the best of both worlds. I think if you can use all parts of the fruits & vegetables that you juice then you truly are getting one hell of a nutritious deal. I’ve watched a few YouTube videos of juicing recipes and juicer reviews, and the great thing is that you can literally put the whole fruit or vegetable in the juicer. No need for peeling. Even the seemingly tough outer of a pineapple can be just put straight through the juicer (after washing well!), so you really are getting the WHOLE fruit and all its nutrients. That can’t be a bad thing at all.

I think juicing may become more of a permanent fixture and maybe my beloved thick, green smoothies will have to make way for some more delicate but oh so delicious juices instead. I just have one dilemma now, which fruits & vegetables to buy next that will work well in the juicer… what are your favourites??? I do want to incorporate more vegetables so as to avoid a sugar overload, so I will be experimenting with a few in the near future. I might even post a recipe or two if I find a particularly amazing combo.

One last thing, apparently you get the most nutrients out of your juice if you drink it within 15 minutes of juicing, but I found a secret weapon to extend the life of my juices today, it’s a set of vacuum-seal containers, specially made for this purpose, that will keep the juice in it’s original condition for 2-3 days. This is perfect for me as I like to juice every couple of days and take one out of the fridge first thing in the morning to wake my system up. Here are those very containers. Click the picture to find out more on the seller’s website (UK site).

On a last note, keeping with the theme of fruits & vegetables… how’s everyone doing with Nutritious November? Are we all still hitting 10-a-day? I certainly am, and the juicing will only help me to achieve this further!

Enjoy a great, healthy week!

Janice.