5 ‘unhealthy’ foods you should eat

Whether you are trying to lose weight, increase energy, reduce cholesterol, control blood sugar levels, improve fertility or just ‘feel better’, here are five foods that you may have been avoiding unnecessarily:

Peanut Butter – Frowned upon as a guilty indulgence, peanut butter can bring you many health benefits. Keep portions sensible at about two tablespoons a day i.e. don’t attack the jar with a spoon!

  • low glycaemic index, helping to keep blood sugar levels from fluctuating
  • good fat – peanuts are high in heart healthy monounsaturated fat
  • protein from nuts are fabulous for helping to make you feel full up for longer and maintaining or building muscle mass
  • High in fibre for healthy digestion and appetite control
  • Have on a piece of wholemeal toast, on an oatcake, mixed in to some chunky oat porridge, or in homemade flapjacks

Eggs – these little powerhouses of nutrition have had bad press over the years due to the cholesterol levels. Research shows that the cholesterol in food is not absorbed well in to the body and does not affect levels of cholesterol in the blood.

  • Full of choline for brain development (essential for pregnant women!)
  • Curbs your appetite – people eating eggs for breakfast consume fewer calories throughout the day
  • High in protein – important for keeping your muscle, and helping to build more to stay lean
  • Easy and cheap – boiled, scrambled, dry fried, poached, microwaved in a minute………..they are so easy to incorporate

Dark chocolate – 80% cocoa chocolate may be an acquired taste, but it is worth it! A small amount will satisfy, as well as having numerous health benefits.images-4

  • low glycaemic index so keeps blood sugar levels steady (good for diabetics, overweight, PCOS, curbing cravings)
  • high in antioxidants which may be protective against cancer, heart disease and ageing
  • lower in caffeine than milk chocolate

Dairy – milk, cheese, yogurt all have health benefits. Unless you have a dairy allergy or intolerance, there really is no reason to remove from your diet.Unknown-13

  • controls appetite: dairy products are digested slowly therefore help you to feel full up for longerUnknown-7
  • a great source of amino acids – essential for maintaing and building muscle
  • calcium – essential for bone formation and muscle function
  • yogurt has probiotic bacteria which are essential for healthy gut function. Keep it natural to lower the sugar content……add your own fruit for some sweetness

Avocados – traditionally,  avocados were relegated to the ‘foods to avoid’ list due to the high fat and calorie content. In fact, eaten in moderation, they actually provide immense health benefits.

  • Healthy fats – lower cholesterol and reduce appetite
  • Avocado eaters more likely to have lower body weight, BMI and waist circumference
  • high in vitamins and fibre
  • rich in phytochemicals which may protect against cancer
  • the fat content helps the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K) from vegetables
  • try half an avocado sliced on toast, mashed as a replacement for mayonnaise or butter, or whizzed up in a smoothie

As with most things in life, “everything in moderation”! Including these nutrient dense foods everyday as part of an all round healthy diet can help your body to function at it’s best.

5 reasons Mums can’t lose the weight

In the past week, I’ve had at least 5 conversations with other mums about their weight, and how to lose it.  It’s one of those things that just seems to happen…….after each child you don’t quite manage to get to your pre pregnancy weight, then over the years the weight creeps up even more. You feel that you’re not over eating, in fact sometimes you can go most of the day without a meal. And you’re on your feet all day so you must be burning up loads of calories.

So why are the scales not going down? What is going on? In a nutshell, you are eating more calories than you are burning. This can be for a number of reasons:

Here a the top 5 reasons why you can’t lose the weight:

  1. Skipping meals: you wake up and are met with the insane and constant demands of your children. Not only do you have to get yourself ready for the day, but all of the children too. If I include myself, I’ve 4 sets of teeth to clean, 4 hairs to brush, 4 bodies to dress, and 4 mouths to feed. It’s easy to miss breakfast! Before you know it’s 10am and you are starving, so you grab a muffin in Starbucks (a skinny one, must be Unknownhealthy right?), or a croissant, and a latte.  At lunchtime, you’re not that hungry, so a biscuit or two or a a packet of crisps is fine, and so the inconsistent grazing continues through the day. By not eating regular meals, you snack on less than nutritious, high calorie food. This is ‘mindless’ eating. Not only are you depriving yourself of nutritious food, you are stacking up the calories. Take 2 minutes in the morning to tell yourself that today, you are going to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  2. ‘Tasting’ while cooking: I am certainly guilty of this. I love cooking and baking, and Unknown-1can easily spend a few hours each day in the kitchen. I like to taste the food, so I’ll have a munch here and there, a taste of this and that to gauge the flavour, and the final product of course.
  3. Finishing the kid’s food: Kids eat until they’ve had enough, so more often than not there will be left over food on their plate. Half a sausage down your hatch with out even thinking about it – that can be nearly 100kcal. Some yoghurt left in the pot (hey, it’s healthy and we can’t let that go to waste can we, and it there’s less mess to clean up!). Half a banana on the walk home from school because daughter didn’t want it, in it goes! All these add up to 100s of calories per day. You are not a human dust bin!
  4. Over eating/drinking in the evening: I understand the immense relief that comes with the children finally being in bed. The peace is something to behold. It’s ‘me’ time, time for a lovely meal and a glass of wine to wind down. You need it, and you deserve it. It is what has been keeping you sane all day. Just be aware that this is a form of
    Better get cracking on this lot!

    Better get cracking on this lot (7200kcal)!

    emotional eating and drinking, and often is a major contributor to weight gain. Look at your portion size of pasta or rice – does it fill the plate? 1/4 plate of pasta, or a fist size amount provides about 250kcal. Fill your plate with salad and veggies. I’m not going to lecture about the health dangers of regular alcohol intake, but one bottle of wine has about 600kcal, the equivalent to a meal.

  5. Reduced metabolism – as we age, our metabolism slows, probably due to loss of muscle. As well as reduced metabolic rate, although you may be active all day, the calories you are using up through exercise is not enough. You need to boost your metabolism by getting some strenuous exercise that gets you sweating! Just pootling up and down the swimming pool or sitting on the exercise bike for twenty minutes isn’t enough. HIIT training is fabulous for those who don’t have much time. Building some muscle by doing weight bearing exercise will also help.

10 ‘all you can eat’ foods

Are you trying to eat healthily, but sometimes feel deprived and hungry? Bored with your food? Struggling to think of healthy meals and snacks?

If you want to lose weight, aid recovery from exercise, sleep better, have more energy, look fabulous, and most importantly FEEL FABULOUS eat these 10 foods in abundance, and then have some more! They are amazing power houses of nutrition with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fibre, and low in calories. If there is one thing you do today (and for the rest of your life), eat these at breakfast, lunch, dinner and in between!

  1. Mushrooms – 1 large: 3kcal. Yes, you read correctly. Only 3 calories in one big mushroom! Choc a block with B vitamins and selenium, which are important for the digestion, hormones, skin, nervous system and red blood cells.
  2. Red Onions – 1 whole big onion: 60kcal. The humble onion, is without question one of the healthiest things you can put in your body. High in compounds such as quercertin, onions are good for muscle repair, skin health, and prevention of heart disease, cancer & diabetes.
  3. Broccoli – 1 cup: 30 kcal. Full of manganese, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and vitamins A, C and K. One serving has 150% of your daily vitamin C requirement (helping to absorb the iron), 270% of your vitamin K and surprisingly, nearly 5g of protein!
  4. Red Pepper – 1 medium: 30 kcal. The deep, vivid colour gives a clue to the impressive nutrition credentials of the red pepper. With more vitamin C than an orange and one third of the calories, eaten raw or cooked, this is an easy addition to jazz up any dish.
  5. Spinach – a whole bag (100g): 23 kcal. Spinach is a true superfood of the vegetable world with more than a dozen different flavonoid compounds that function as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents. Vitamin K, calcium and magnesium work synergistically for bone health.
  6. Kale – half a bag (100g): 50 kcal – Kale provides a powerhouse of goodness that can be enhanced by steaming for 5 minutes. Kale is outstanding for antioxidants, anti inflammatory compounds and cancer preventing nutrients. Wonderful with garlic and a sprinkle of soy sauce.
  7. Red cabbage – 1 cup: 30 kcal The rich color of red cabbage reflects it concentration of anthocyanin, which is an antioxidant and is anti-inflammatory. Emerging evidence suggests that anthocyanins may provide cancer protection, improve brain function and promote heart health.
  8. Carrots – 1 large: 40 kcal. Carrots are a staple British veg. Carotenoids, essential for good vision, can be made more bioavailable by lightly steaming the carrots. Many people prefer the sweeter taste and texture of lightly steamed or boiled.
  9. Beetroot – 1 medium sized: 35 kcal – Both the bitter leaves (exceptional for calcium, vitamins A & C, and folate) and the sweet beetroot can be eaten. Betacyanin provides the intense deep purple colour, glutamine is essential to the health and maintenance of the intestinal tract, while nitrate has been found to lower blood pressure and enables athletes to exercise for up to 16% longer.
  10. Tomatoes – a punnet of cherry tomatoes: 70 kcal (4 kcal each). It does not matter how you eat tomatoes, as all forms are low in carbohydrates and packed with vital nutrients such as lycopene (more easily absorbed if tomato is cooked), vitamin C and E, iron, potassium and fiber. Eat tomatoes as often as you wish!

So you treat yourself to a MASSIVE plate of food, safe in the knowledge that your indulgence is providing very few calories AND an awesome amount of nutrients. Have with some lean protein e.g. chicken, salmon, lentils, eggs, and healthy fats to make a superfood meal. If you’ve been exercising or will be working out in the next few hours, add in some wholesome carbohydrate. Preparing these doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some snack/recipe ideas that can be ready in minutes:

  • green smoothie: did you know that you can adding leafy green veg to smoothies is possible? For a breakfast veg hit, in a blender whizz up 200ml water/milk, a ripe banana, tablespoon peanut butter and a large handful of spinach.
  • snack on red peppers – keep it simple, chop and eat raw and crunchy with a tablespoon of humus
  • lightly steam carrots in the microwave to keep essential nutrients (put in a bowl or mug with a little hot water and cover). Benefits of cooking veg in the microwave
  • For breakfast: an omelette made with stir fried sliced red onion and spinach with 3 beaten eggs
  • stir fry kale, red peppers, red onions and mushrooms with a little olive oil, garlic, ginger and soy sauce.
  • For a healthier coleslaw, finely chop or grate cabbage, a carrot, slice some radishes, spring onion and a half handful of coriander, add bit of lime juice and half a squeezed orange. The orange and carrots give it sweetness.
  • Super Boost Carrot & Red Cabbage Salad
  • Tomato & Lentil Soup
  • Happy Carrots
  • Superfood Salad

Veggie Spaghetti – with £3.29 gadget!

Julieene Peeler, £3.99 Lakeland

Julieene Peeler, £3.29 Lakeland

Do you struggle to eat more vegetables?

Need fresh and inspiring ideas?

Are you watching your weight, or need to lose a few pounds?

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Spiraliser (£30 Amazon)

I very rarely recommend a gadget, but yesterday I was inspired by an article and recipe in this month’s Red Magazine, which used a gadget called a ‘spiraliser’ (£30 from Amazon).  It allows you to transform a healthy, low-calorie, low-carb vegetable into a giant bowl of pasta! Nutritious, filling and very, very easy. After a bit of online research, I was able to come up with a cheaper alternative to the Amazon Spiriliser…….a julienne peeler (£3.29 from Lakeland). We are lucky enough to have a Lakeland store here in Kingston, so after dropping the eldest two children at school this morning, the Little Man and I high tailed it to purchase the peeler.

Courgette, carrot and garlic

Courgette, carrot and garlic

Lunchtime saw a quick experiment with the new gadget. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical that the veggies would taste any different to simply chopping or grating. Just a few minutes of ‘julienning’ a carrot and a courgette, tossed in a pan with olive oil, some garlic and a tin of tuna produced a most awesomely delicious lunch for the two of us (I added some left over rice to Little Man’s to bump up the carbs and cals for him). The carrot and courgette had the most fabulous texture, a little al dente and juicy!

Result! in just 5 minutes

Result! in just 5 minutes

For anyone in to calorie counting, here is a comparison. One courgette julienned producing a big bowl of courgette noodles: 30 kcal. One bowl of spaghetti: 220kcal! And I can honestly say that, to me, it tastes miles better than standard pasta or noodles.

I’ll be testing the new spaghetti veg on the girls this evening. I predict it will be a big hit with them too!

A big hit with Little Man

Slurping up the courgette spaghetti!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Things to do with Peppers

Today I picked up a massive haul of lovely yellow and red peppers from my local market for £1.

16 peppers for a £1!

16 peppers for a £1!

16 of the lovely things! I love a bargain, but how can I use them all before they need relagated to the compost bin?!

Here’s 10 things to do with a pepper:

(for some of these I could easily use two peppers – use lots as they are highly nutritious and very low calorie!):

  1. Eaten as they are, as you would eat an apple (my 2 year old Conor does this in his buggy, we get some odd looks!)
  2. Sliced up and dunked in to humus or salsa
  3. Use large chunks to scoop up cottage cheese as a low fat, high protein snack
  4. Diced and added to bolognaise or chilli
  5. Strips in stir fry
  6. Roasted in the oven at 180c for about 20minutes
  7. Diced in an omlette
  8. Diced in mini pastry-less quiches: beat 3 eggs, add pepper, grated cheese and tuna/ham. Pour in to silicone muffin cases, bake in oven for about 10-15 minutes at 180c.
  9. Stuffed with other ingredients.
  10. Smoothie – red pepper in a smoothie??!! I haven’t tried this one yet, but it looks interesting!

10 top foods for recovery

You may feel that you have worked out to the max during your sessions burning 100s of calories, so does it really matter if you have some crisps, chocolate, a danish pastry or chips? Time and time again, research shows that the answer is “yes”. Replacing calories isn’t the only objective of recovery.

Between each workout, game or race the body needs to adapt to the physiological stress that has just been applied, so that it can recover and become fitter, stronger and faster. Whether you are a triathlete, a gym addict, or your child is playing in a weekend rugby tournament, optimum recovery nutrition can help you to perform better in the short and long term.

There are many ‘recovery drinks’ and powders marketed for refuelling after exercise. While

Real Food

Real Food

these have their place, they are not necessarily the best option. It can be argued that real food is the best fuel for recovery, providing everything that a recovery drink can, as well as all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals etc that simply cannot be bottled or made in to a powder.

What’s happening during recovery?

  • refuelling of muscle and carbohydrate stores
  • replacing fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat
  • manufacturing new muscle protein and blood cells
  • allowing immune system to manage damage caused by exercise

 

What are the recovery ‘rules’?

  • multiple daily exercise sessions – if less than 24 hours until next session e.g. professional athletes, weekend rugby tournament, compulsive gym exercisers: recovery nutrition after your session ASAP, ideally within an hour. If next session starts within an hour, recovery drinks or anything low fibre and low fat to help with faster digestion (lasagne not a good option!)
  • more than 24 hours between exercise sessions – generally no need to eat soon after exercise, try to have your next usual meal. consisting of some protein and carbohydrate. If trying to gain muscle, then you can add a recovery snack to fuel this catabolic process. If trying to lose weight and hungry after training, be careful not to increase overall daily calorie intake. Have something light to eat e.g. yogurt.

 

Why carbs & protein are important

Immediately post exercise, good recovery nutrition will consist of protein & carbohydrate. Aim for 1g carbohydrate per kg of body weight, and approximately 25g protein (a chicken breast is about 25-30g, a mug full of rice is about 70g carbohydrate). Unfortunately, eating lots of extra protein does not make bigger muscles.

Carbs and protein work together: carbs help to shuttle protein in to the muscles, and protein helps to stimulate faster muscle glycogen replacement. Low fat helps the food to be absorbed more quickly, as does low fibre (so don’t be too concerned about choosing ‘healthy’ whole grain carbs like whole wheat bread). Fruit & veg can be included in the next meal to provide antioxidants.

If you don’t feel like eating food or don’t have the time or facilities, then recovery drinks or shop bought milkshakes can be useful. Here is a more in-depth look at some of the most popular commercial recovery drinks. If you are trying to lose weight, then watch the calories……..don’t increase overall calories through the day.

 

10 snack foods for fast recovery:

330ml Milkshake – e.g. Yazoo, Frijj, For Goodness Shakes

Homemade recovery smoothie

Post exercise shakes have their place, but watch the extra calories!Large skinny latte & handful of nuts

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Bagel with peanut butter

Milk: perfect recovery protein & carbs

Breakfast cereal with milk e.g Cornflakes, Rice Krispies, Cheerios

2 Eggs on 2 white toast

Sandwich/roll/wrap/pitta: filled with chicken, fish or eggs

Jacket potato with cottage cheese/tin of tuna/Baked Beans

Banana or yogurt

Yogurt & Banana

Homemade Seriously Healthy Flapjacks

6 tips for portion control

I have written a lot about the types of foods to include for improving health and well being, but if you are watching your weight, how much you eat can be just as important as what you eat. Even if you have eat the healthiest foods ever, over do portion sizes, and you may see this in an inability to lose weight, and even weight gain. Below is a diagram of ideal proportions, but this could be a tiny or a massive plate!

Ideal proportions, but how much is a 'portion'?

Ideal proportions, but how much is a ‘portion’?

So what does a portion actually look like?

Fish or meat: size of the palm of your hand, or about 5-6 meatballs

pasta, rice, potato: a clenched fist

bread: one slice

cheese: a small matchbox

vegetables: about a cup

nuts: a small handful, or about 8 almonds

Some foods come ready prepared in their portion size eg. 2 eggs, a banana, an apple, or 2 satsumas

6 tips for portion control:

  1. Don’t cook more than you need of carbohydrate and protein foods. Even if you have been controlled with your first portion, if there are leftovers, you will be tempted by seconds. By all means, cook extra vegetables. If you are still hungry, have more veg!

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    Cook lots of veg!

  2. Use whole grain carbohydrates eg. brown rice, oats, whole meal pasta – these are higher in fibre which should help you to feel full up for longer, so you will feel more satisfied with a smaller portion. They also keep your blood sugar levels steady, so a) preventing cravings for sugary snacks later on, and b) blunting insulin release (insulin promotes fat storage).
  3. Make sure that you have a portion of protein with each meal eg. tuna, chicken, salmon, beef, eggs, lentils – protein induces a feeling of fullness, so making you less likely to feel the need to snack later on. Your body also uses up more energy processing protein foods.

    Protein with each meal

    Protein with each meal

  4. Use a smaller plate – this will make the amount of food you are having appear to be more
  5. Don’t eat straight out of a carton or packet – this makes it almost impossible to keep to one portion. Take a handful of nuts from a bag and then put the bag out of sight.
  6. Focus on what you are eating – try not to eat in front of your computer or television. This can result in you unconsciously eating more than you intend to.

For those without weight worries, or with high calorie needs, you can stick to the same principles of proportions (1/4 carbs, 1/4 protein, 1/2 veg) but in larger portions sizes…..

For high calorie needs, bigger portions.

For high calorie needs, bigger portions.