Lunch on the go

11358215_1455462974773612_78535042_nMornings are hectic, I get it. It’s challenging enough to get everyone to where they have to be, with the right bag, snack and drink, without stopping to think about your own lunch. Then lunchtime comes around and your only option is the work canteen’s gloopy offerings, the vending machine or the cafe next door.

With a small amount of planning and savvy shopping though, you could change all of this. Here are a few ideas lunch hacks that will improve the nutrient density of your food you eat at work:

  • Pre-cooked chicken or fish– comes in a variety of flavours but plain is best if trying to avoid sugar and other additives. Pair with a bag of salad for a chicken salad.
  • No-cook grains – I love this one from Waitrose. You don’t have to cook it and paired with meat, veg, or even just some tamari soy sauce you’ve got a filling lunch.
  • Noodle pots – Itsu do some great ones but there are others available. Add boiling water and you have a healthy, filling lunch ready to go.
  • Last night’s dinner – It’s an oldie but a goodie. Cook a little extra for dinner and pot it up for lunch the next day.

Hopefully that gives you a few ideas to help revolutionise your lunch. If you have any other suggestions please share them.

 

Recipe books that help me stay healthy

If you’re anything like me you’ll have a vast number of recipe books in your bookcase, but actually use just a handful regularly. As many of you may be in the early stages of a new resolution to eat healthier, I thought now might be a good time to let you know the recipe books that I frequently turn to for inspiration.

Ella

Deliciously Ella by Ella Woodward – I love that most of Woodward’s recipes are based on a list of core ingredients, so that once you have those in the kitchen you can make loads of the recipes without having to buy a list of obscure ingredients you only need a tiny bit of. I use Ella’s almond butter, coconut porridge, chia seed pudding and cinnamon pecan granola recipes all the time, and  many more are frequently used too. It’s probably the most-used recipe book I’ve ever had.

Slow cooker

Hamlyn All Colour 200 Slow Cooker Recipes – Slow cookers are a great way to ensure that you don’t start raiding the cupboards for quick fixes as soon as you get home. Instead of quickly filling up on processed foods you can tuck into a delicious wholesome meal that’s been bubbling away all day. My family’s favourite recipe from this book is the sausage and onion gravy casserole.

 

Super JamieEveryday Super Foods by Jamie Oliver – In this book’s accompanying series Jamie states, “I want you to eat healthy foods not because you have to, but because it’s delicious.” Now that is an ethos that I totally agree with, and with recipes like these I think it’s very easy to achieve. I’m working my way through the book, and the recipes are all very tasty and simple to prepare. I think the family favourite so far is the vegetable lasagne made with spinach and roasted butternut squash. Delicious.

RiverfordRiverford Farm Cook Book – I use this book when I have a few veggies hanging about that need to be used up, as the contents are listed by veg. This allows me to be much more creative with veggies, which is fun for me and also means that my children and far more likely to eat them.

 

 

Neal's YardNeal’s Yard Healing Foods – This book turns your kitchen into a pharmacy, as it advises you which foods to use (and how) to cure a whole range of ailments. You can either look up a particular food, or the symptom you wish to ease. There are also meal plans with a particular focus, for example to improve heart health, maintain healthy joints and to help relieve stress.

 

Clean and leanClean and Lean Diet by James Duigan – This book was a bit of a game-changer for me, because as I read it I experienced quite a lot of “light bulb” moments that enabled me to see where I’d been going wrong with my nutrition for years. Having implicated the changes Duigan suggested I saw my body shape improve in way that it never had before. Ever better was the fact that those changes were unbelievably simple, and also perfectly logical once I stopped to think about it.

Good FoodBBC Good Food website – Ok, I know this isn’t a book, but I use it all the time so I couldn’t not mention it here. There are recipes on here from many celebrity chefs and you can search by difficulty level, preparation time, dietary requirements and more. Like the Riverford book I often use this when I have a particular ingredient I wish to use but am lacking in inspiration.

Do you have any other books that you would add to this list? If so please comment on this post.

 

‘Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us’ by Michael Moss

Salt, Sugar, Fat bookThis is something of a book review but also a reiteration of something I read and talk about a lot. That is the simple fact we as individuals are not as responsible for our own waistlines as we might think. The food manufacturers have got a great deal to answer for, as it is due to their addictive products, savvy marketing and the scientifically planned food shops that are actually largely to blame.

The people behind all the fattening and sugary products out there know full well that human beings are hard-wired to seek out the most delicious and fattening foods available. This harkens back to our caveman days when sweet foods meant the occasional berry bush you may stumble on, and fattening meant the fat of the animals you had hunted down with your bare hands. Of course food gathering is very different these days but our biology hasn’t changed. So the tastes and macronutrients (fat, protein and carbs) we were only supposed to consume sparingly, can be consumed as much as we like, and we do. As the book says, “They’ve discovered that the brain lights up for sugar the same way it does for cocaine, and this knowledge is useful, not only in formulating foods.”

And the people behind the products know this, as pointed out in the book with a quote from the former CEO of General Mills, the company behind Cherrios, Lucky Charms and the Betty Crocker products: “Don’t talk to me about nutrition,” he said, taking on the voice of a typical consumer. “Talk to me about taste, and if this stuff tastes better, don’t run around trying to sell stuff that doesn’t taste good.”

Some of the top food execs have had more of a conscience than others and tried to make changes to the nutritional profile of their companies’ products, but generally these execs have not lasted long when they have tried out this approach. Their companies are there to make money after all, and therefore the more people like the products the more they will buy, and the more money they’ll make. Duh!

The book talks about the various diet trends we go through, and how the food manufacturers cash in on this. All those “low fat” or “sugar free” products attract people to their products who would usually avoid them. But the loss of fat or sugar comes at a dietary cost. In order to make up for the removed element, a long list of additives are usually added to make up for the loss in flavour. As I’ve said in previous posts this makes for foods that our body is not designed to process, which leads to all manner of problems for the human body. It is very telling to me that the book points out that a great many of the people who work for the big companies avoid all processed foods.

I could go off on one because this is a topic that really riles me, but if you are in anyway interested then I urge you to read the book. The reason that I wanted to blog about it is because I want people to realise that the products that cause us to pile on the pounds have been painstakingly created so that you can’t resist buying and eating them, in order that you make the companies behind them lots of money.

We all beat ourselves up when we indulge and blame our lack of willpower but the reality is that in this day and age it is extremely hard to rise above all the salt, sugar and fat that is out there to tempt us. Once you know what the food manufacturers are up to however, you can see through their marketing strategies and consequently get much better at resisting their products. And when you do and realise how much you feel much better for it and it is strangely liberating.

Buy ‘Salt, Sugar, Far: How the Food Giants Hooked Us’ on Amazon.

Don’t let the scales get you down

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“I don’t believe it”

Now before I start let me say that I know only too well how disheartening it can be to step on a set of scales after a day/week/month/lifetime of starving yourself and sweating your socks off at the gym to find that the arrow hasn’t gone down at all. I also know how it can feel even worse finding that after all that effort the blummin’ thing has even had the nerve to creep up slightly.

If you too have been in this position I have a little challenge for you: loose the scales. Hide them in a cupboard, pack them off to a remote island somewhere or take them to the tip. They are dragging you down.

The thing is, muscle weighs more than fat. So stepping on the scales does not reflect the changes your body is undergoing. It is of course extremely normal to want some proof that all your efforts are paying off. But instead of jumping on the scales though take measurements of your waist, hips and chest periodically. Alternatively get a personal trainer or fitness instructor to do a body fat test on you.

There is no secret to having a healthy body but here are a few hints:

  • Exercise and eat nutritious food and you will have a strong and healthy body and mind.
  • Be honest with yourself about whether you have the balance right. Deep down you probably know whether you do or not.
  • Cut back on sugar, salt, alcohol, excess fat and smoking.
  • Some fats are good and vital for your body to function so don’t eliminate them all. Not all fats are created equal.
  • “Low fat” and “reduced fat” foods are pumped full of chemicals your body isn’t designed to process. Swap them for clean foods in their purest form, organic if possible.
  • Vow to never go on a fad diet again. They are temporary solutions that generally see you depriving your body of a vital macronutrient (fat, carbs and protein) that your body needs in order to function properly. You may loose a little weight but you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll put it back on, with a little extra, once you go back to your old eating habits.
  • Give up cereal. Almost all contain some sugar and most low GI so set your body off into a serious of sugar spikes at the start of the day. The box it comes in is probably more nutritious. Swap it for the toast with nut butter, porridge, quinoa flakes or eggs.
  • Drop the fizzy drinks. There is startling evidence that shows a direct correlation between soft drink correlation and a rise in obesity and type II diabetes. The calories in them not only slip into your body undetected due to their liquid form, but they also trick your body into thinking it needs more food than it does. There’s a reason cinemas and restaurants serve such gigantic servings of the stuff.

Loosing the obsession over the scales will free your mind to be honest with itself, and will allow you to focus more on whether you truly feel better for the changes you are making. The chances are when you find what it is that really revitalises you, a stronger and healthier body will follow.