Toasting

It wasn’t until I started making granola a few years ago that I started liking pumpkin and sunflower seeds. To me, in their raw form ie. straight from the packet, they had an unpleasant texture and taste. However, when roasted in the oven with the other granola ingredients, they take on an entirely different personality – crunchier, earthy sweet, nuttier.

Interestingly, by roasting in the oven, grilling, or toasting in a frying pan the health benefits of the seeds are increased. Heating causes a process within the seeds called the Maillard Reaction, which changes the protein structure and nutrition profile for the better. So not only do they taste fab, their antioxidant capacity also increases ūüôā

Abundant evidence suggests that antioxidants from foods e.g. fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds are needed to counteract the harmful free radicals which the body naturally produces during all of the millions of metabolic reactions and processes that occur in every cell of our bodies. Excessive free radicals contribute to chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, cognitive decline, and vision loss.

So I use the toasted seeds everyday in a variety of ways, not just because they’re healthy, but because they taste really good and add interesting textures too. Try them in granola, sprinkled on salads, in yogurt, in my superfood salad and happy carrot recipes or just as a handy snack mixed with some raisins or dark chocolate chips.

My cousins and aunt got me the best present ever for my birthday last week. A variety of boxes of tea bags and a bar of Dairy Milk chocolate, thriftily sourced from their kitchen cupboard. We like to think we’re a bit like the Royal Family with our gifting eccentricity.

I’m not one for hyperbole, but the box of Celestial Cinnamon Apple Spice has totally knocked my socks off. In all of my 44 years, it’s the first herbal tea that I’ve tasted that has any sort of intensity to the flavour. If ever there was a “hug in a cup” that smacks you in the taste buds, this is it. It makes a wonderful change from coffee (there’s only so much one can drink before the caffeine has me bouncing off the walls like a loon), peppermint tea (meh), and water (boring, just so boring).

It’s always a bonus when your food/drinks have health benefits. Some studies have suggested that the compounds in cinnamon have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and antimicrobial properties, and that they might offer protection from cancer and cardiovascular disease, among other like type 2 diabetes, PCOS and Parkinson’s Disease.

No matter, I finished a box of 20 in less than a week, so had to source a new supply. Locally, I found some in Sostrene Grene (bizarrely, we have a branch of this adorable Swedish gem of a shop in Bangor), you can also find it in Iona health food shop in Holywood and from amazon.co.uk.

Have a nice Sunday, see ya!!

Katsu Curry

I remember my first visit to Wagamama’s in Soho c. 1994. In the days before the internet with online reviews, its credentials were confirmed by the queue on the wooden stairs that descended in to the bright basement. “Have you been here before”, was our brisk greeting as we were seated at a long bench in the starkly decorated, minimalist restaurant. Dining elbow to elbow with strangers to eat Japanese food was a relatively new concept, and an exciting/eccentric/weird experience for a Belfast teenager.

Fast forward nearly thirty years, and my love for this Japanese fast food restaurant that serves fresh, tasty, decently priced dishes has not wained. There are now 130 Wagamama’s in the UK, with two near me in Belfast. My kids are equally taken by Waga’s – including the fussy eater (halleluja) – whose go to on the menu is the chicken katsu curry. (It could be worth mentioning that the word wagamama („āŹ„ĀĆ„Āĺ„Āĺ) is Japanese for “self-indulgent”, “self-centred”, “disobedient”, or “wilful” and is most often translated by the brand as naughty child).

The Kastu Curry is Wagamama’s most popular dish, and was bought 2.5 million times last year. If you ever sit near the service point it is hard not to notice the stream of Katsus being ferried out to diners. There’s even a mini kids version which comes complete with shredded carrot and cucumber, keeping parents happy that they’re getting their veggies.

You’d think that it would be hard to replicate at home. The rice and chicken component can be very simple – use ready cooked packet rice and shop bought breaded chicken fillets. Of course you can prepare these from scratch yourself using basmati or jasmine rice and bread-crumbing/crushed corn-flaking chicken breasts.

It is also possible to buy Katsu curry sauce in a jar, however this homemade adapted from the original Wagamama recipe is far superior.

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
  • 1 inch piece of ginger peeled and finely chopped
  • 100ml coconut milk
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp mild curry powder
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plain flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce

Soften the garlic, onion and ginger in the oil over a medium heat. Add the turmeric and curry powder, stir for about a minute. Add the flour, mix for another minute. Add the chicken stock a splash at a time, stirring to make the sauce. When all the chicken stock has been added, stir in the coconut milk, soy sauce and sugar. Allow to bubble for a few minutes, then blend with a stick blender (or whizz up in a foddering processor, I use my Nutribullet).

The original recipe says to sieve the sauce rather than blending to make it smooth, but it seems such a shame to remove the awesome goodness and flavour of the onions, ginger and garlic. Sure, it’s a diversion from the original recipe, but very much in keeping with the “naughty child” ethos of the Wagamama name, ha ha!

Also, by keeping the onions and garlic, as well as the turmeric and curry spices you will be making your gut microbiome very happy ūüôā and that’s a very good thing.

Athlete’s Top 10 Shopping List

For professional, elite and serious amateur athletes, heavy training schedules can mean massive amounts of calories need to be eaten each day.¬†4500kcal for a rugby player is normal, for a tour cyclist this could be 7000kcal, while for a 45kg gymnast they may only need 1700kcal. Whatever the calorie needs, athletes need to pack in as much nutrition punch as possible. That means forgoing nutrient empty junk food, and swapping for food and drinks that will fuel the training and recovery.¬†So what are the things that regularly appear on the pro’s daily shopping list?

For optimum nutrition, performance and health, there is nothing better than REAL food. The incredibly complex makeup of food simply cannot be artificially produced in a supplement powder or pill. Real food provides phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein and possibly, many other beneficial constituents that science hasn’t identified yet.

Sports drinks, supplement shakes and bars can be useful as a stop gap, when good food is not readily available, or when calorie requirements are so high that it is difficult to achieve with food alone.¬†I often use an analogy of the bricks of a house being food, and supplements being the chimney. If you don’t have the nutrition basics of food (walls and roof) in place, it is daft to think that there is any point to having a chimney (supplements).

Here are some top foods¬†that should feature on your¬†shopping list. These are all mostly ‘nutritionally dense’ meaning that they are choca-block full of good nutrition allowing your body to train, perform and recover to it’s maximum potential:

  1. Vegetables – often overlooked in favour of carbohydrates and protein, and served as an after thought with just a spoonful on the plate. Vegetables are absolutely essential to maintain health, providing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phyto chemicals, fibre etc. all of which simply cannot be bottled or put in a pill. Vegetables also ‘feed’ the healthy bacteria in the digestive system.¬†Easy staples include broccoli, onions, spring onions, peppers, and carrots – not very adventurous, but that is fine! Fresh, frozen, boiled, steamed, microwaved, stir fried, raw…….just get. them. in!LN_012697_BP_9.jpg
  2. Oats – for breakfast, you can’t go far wrong with oats. They are high carbohydrate, so idea to have before or after training. Oats come in various textures, from the very fine in Ready Brek, to the chunky Flahavins. You can add all sorts of things to basic oats to add some oomph:¬†milk, raisins, sliced¬†banana, cocoa powder, cinnamon, desiccated coconut etc. You can also put them in a smoothie for breakfast or for post training recovery.¬†10 ways with oats
  3. Milk – protein, carbohydrate, low fat, calcium for bones and muscle function. Added to tea, coffee, porridge and breakfast cereals. Research shows that milk post-exercise is just as effective and recovery and rehydration, if not more so, than commercially-available sports drinks005045.jpg
  4. Coffee – because it’s one of life’s pleasures, but also when taken before/during exercise, caffeine has been proven to enhance athletic performance. A recent study showed that two cups of coffee improved endurance performance by 4%.
  5. Peanut butter – good for¬†protein, energy and good fats. If you are trying to drop body fat/weight then go easy¬†as it’s very high in calories – too much is often one of the biggest mistakes for¬†my weight loss clients! Mix a tablespoon in to porridge or spread on oatcakes/rice cakes.
  6. Eggs – one of the most nutritious foods that you can eat: high in protein, omega 3 fats, lutein, choline, all the B vitamins, as well as vitamins A, D, E, K, and iron. ¬†Omelettes, poached, scrambled, fried or to make egg fried rice. You can even mix one in to hot porridge (just don’t put in the microwave with the oats or you’ll get scrambled oat-eggs……yak!)
  7. Rice – carbohydrates are very important for fuelling exercise,
    for recovery, and for the immunity. White rice can be particularly useful when there is only an hour or two between training sessions and fast release carbs are needed. Whole grain rice is higher in fibre, digested more slowly, and is more filling.
  8. Chicken – high protein, low fat, and very versatile. There are endless ways to use chicken: plain grilled, a whole chicken roasted, stir fried, mixed with light mayo and veg in wraps, stuffed with pesto and cheddar cheese. One of the easiest ‘recipes’ is a whole chicken in a slow cooker for 6 hours.
  9. Yogurt – the high protein ones can be particularly beneficial for athletes eg. Total greek yogurt, Danio, Liberte etc These¬†have double the protein of normal yogurts (greek ‘style’ is not usually higher in protein), so good for muscle repair and maintenance. Yogurt also contains ‘probiotics’ which are beneficial for the digestion and immunity.
  10. Salmon –¬†or any oily fish (mackerel, sardines, fresh tuna). Oily fish is the best food source of anti inflammatory omega 3 fats which is essential in every athlete’s diet to reduce muscle inflammation and delayed onset muscle soreness. Aim to take at least 2-3 times a week. If you don’t like any of these fish, then I advise taking daily fish oil supplements.288543.jpg

 

For loads of recipes using all of the above ingredients click…….here!

Flaxseed Bread

MIMG_0498.JPGy middle daughter, Evie (7), has serious issues with gluten (and oats!). She’s tested¬†negative for coeliac disease, but if she has even a small amount food of bread, cake or pasta she will be doubled up in pain a few hours later. As for many people with gut issues, stress and worry are also a major factor in making the problem worse. She desperately misses London since we had to move to N. Ireland 8 months ago: our
house, her school, her friends, and most of all her Dad who still lives there.

It’s lucky that I’m a dietitian, as I’m well used to managing patients with coeliac disease and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, but practically it can be tough to avoid gluten. Birthday parties are notoriously difficult to negotiate (what kid can’t resist a tiny bit of cake!). The availability of gluten free foods is a million times better than 10 years ago, but they can be expensive and often loaded with sugar. I like making as much of my family’s food as possible, and this¬†bread is fab for her……….the flaxseed is brilliant for gut health and constipation, and the eggs and almonds provide terrific sources of protein. And very importantly, it’s so easy.

If you are watching your carbohydrate intake, needing gluten free, or simply want a highly nutritious healthy bread, then I highly recommend this very easy ecipe. For anyone who has tried Irish wheaten bread, this has a very similar texture.IMG_0861.JPG

Flaxseeds for dietary fiber, manganese, vitamin B1, and omega-3 healthy fats. Almonds are a source of vitamin E, copper, magnesium, and high quality protein, fiber, and phytosterols. Eggs are a very good source of high quality protein, vitamin B2, selenium, B6, B12 and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper, fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

There is about 1000 kcal, 54g protein, 5g carbs in the whole loaf. So if you cut 6 slices, that’s about 170kcal per slice.

Ingredients: 

Ground flaxseed – 1 cup

Ground almonds – 1/2 cup

Eggs – 4

Baking powder – 1 teaspoon

Method:

1) Beat together eggs & 3 tablespoons of water

2) Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl: 1 cup ground flaxseedUnknown copy 9, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 cup ground almonds

3) Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mix well. Put in a loaf tin, cook for 20 minutes at 200 degrees C.

Seriously Healthy Pancakes (2 ingredients)

It’s Shrove Tuesday, yay for pancakes! But do they seem like a chore to make? Would you like a super speedy, easy AND healthy pancake recipe??

This pancake mix¬†takes about 1 minute to prepare using a banana and 2 eggs. It’s ready to cook immediately! They are awesome with a big dollop of greek yogurt and some warm berries……I use frozen berries that have been blasted in the microwave to defrost ūüôā

The pancakes mix is easier to make with a blender Рjust blast all the ingredients together,  but it can also be done with a fork.

Ripe bananas

1 Ripe banana

2 Eggs

2 Eggs – high protein

  1. Mash the banana very well – the more ripe the banana the easier this is
  2. Crack in two eggs and mix with a fork. (You can also do this in a blender).
  3. Optional: add in a handful of oats to increase the carbohydrate and fibre for sustained energy.
  4. Pour some mixture in to a lightly greased frying pan (ideally a non-stick one), allow to cook on a medium heat for a minute or two. You’ll see little bubbles appearing, take a peak underneath to see if it turning brown. Flip over and cook the other side.

Extras: a simple drizzle of honey/maple syrup, or greek yogurt topped with berries.

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Take to work or school (pic courtesy of my sis!)

 

Tip: if you are watching your weight, studies show eating eggs for breakfast can help. Eggs seem to help you to feel full up for longer and keep your blood sugar levels steady.

 

Wee Bytes – Ready Brek

Ready Brek – it’s such a kiddie food, surely no self respecting grown up would be eating
this for breakfast?! And isn’t it loaded with sugar?

Well you could be missing out…….this is pretty great stuff, and doesn’t deserve to be tarred with the same brush¬†as other sugary breakfast cereals.

Ready Brek is simply ground up oats with vitamins added (there is no added sugar). The ingredients are: Wholegrain Rolled Oats (60%), Wholegrain Oat Flour (38%), Calcium, Niacin, Iron, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin B6, Thiamin (B1), Folic Acid, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12. Add some milk, and you’ve a wonderful combination of carbohydrate, protein, soluble fibre and all those lovely vits and minerals.

Two ways with Ready Brek:

In a bowl: Put a mug full of milk in a bowl, microwave for about 90 seconds, or until boiling. Sprinkle in the Ready Brek and mix until you get your desired consistency. Tasty extras to add:

  • cinnamon
  • raisins
  • chopped banana
  • a scoop of protein powder
  • a teaspoon of cocoa powder
  • an egg – yes really, crack one in and mix well while the RB is piping hot

Add more milk if it’s too hot or you like it extra milky.

Smoothie: Blend together 200-300ml milk, 1 banana or some berries, 1/2-1 mugful of Ready Brek, drizzle of honey. Quantities of ingredients depends on how hungry you are, or how hard you training. I came up with this smoothie idea for one of my little GB gymnasts who was struggling with fatigue due to training coming up to the World Championships…… they got a Gold by the way ūüôā

Perfect for sport

Because the oats are ground up, Ready Brek is easily and quickly digested, therefore brilliant to have 1 hour before an intentse training session e.g. a swim, run or bike; or after for recovery refuelling.

Before a 6am run or swim, I usually have a ripe banana and milky coffee, and then have a Ready Brek Smoothie as soon as I get home. I need very quick recovery food otherwise I feel very tired later in the afternoon.