9 foods nutritionists never eat

There is an argument that all foods are OK in moderation, and this is largely based on not having ‘being healthy’ become something that feels like a chore or that has you missing out on some of the things you really enjoy. You know that I am not a purist, and I totally believe in never demonizing foods because having ‘extreme’ views on anything is never healthy. But as a nutrition professional, there are a few things that I NEVER eat.

1 Low fat/ reduced fat foods/ diet foods

These foods are, by definition, very highly processed. Where fat is taken out of a food, what nearly always goes in instead is either sugar or artificial sweeteners. The idea that fat is bad or leads to weight gain has now been acknowledged as being entirely wrong. We now know that sugars (and excess starchy carbs) are what mostly leads to weight gain and keep you craving sweet things. Many artificial sweeteners aren’t great for gut health either. I’d far rather stick to the natural, full fat version.

2 Haribo or similar sweets

I won’t go into how bad sugar is for you because I am pretty sure you know this by now. Sugar has no nutritional value, so I see no point in eating something that has no benefits to my health. Unfortunately, everyone eats far too much of it as it sneaks in many products not just cakes, biscuits, convenience foods but sugar is also in foods that are marketed as ‘healthy’.

3 Margarine and butter substitutes

Margarine and vegetable spreads are the nutritionally poorer relations of real butter, coconut oil and other healthy fats like olive oil. Again, they are heavily processed. Often what draws people to them is the thought that they are somehow healthier because of their lower levels of saturated fats. Given that saturated fat is not the enemy to your health – while artificially hardened vegetable oils (think trans-fats) are – it’s far better to stick to unadulterated fats, using regular butter, ghee (clarified butter) and coconut oil, or olive oil for cooking at lower temperatures.

4 Sugar free fizzy drinks, diet drinks and energy drinks

Sometimes I see clients ‘filling up’ on diet drinks, which (although they contain no actual calories) are doing your body no favours. They’re still conditioning your body to expect more sweet stuff, and the jury is still out on whether artificial sweeteners are not great or seriously detrimental to health. Energy drinks often provide a dual hit of very large amounts of caffeine accompanied by either a lot of sugar or artificial sweeteners. When I’m working with clients who are propping themselves up with these drinks, I like to get to the cause of their fatigue, because what’s in the tin of Red Bull (or similar) will not help them solve the real issue.

5 Hotdogs and processed meat

It is quite shocking how little actual meat goes into hotdogs, and processed deli-style meats are often pumped with water, sugar (even if it’s not actually called sugar, look out for anything ending in ‘-ose’ – like dextrose), salt and preservatives. Some of the additives in processed meats have been linked to increased risk of colon cancer.

6 Shop-bought cereals

Most supermarket cereals are filled with sugar and very high in starchy carbs, which will have your energy levels crashing come mid-morning. Better options include home-made granola (like the cinnamon pecan granola from Deliciously Ella), which are easy weekend jobs and last a good while, porridge or overnight oats, omelettes or poached eggs (in fact, any kind of eggs) on wholemeal toast.

7 Rice cakes

These are often a go-to food for anyone counting calories. Unfortunately, they will skyrocket your blood sugar levels. A better choice would be a couple of oat cakes topped with unsweetened nut butter or a little hummus.

8 Mycoprotein like Quorn

Quorn is a very processed food that comes from a fungusFusarium venenatum and is fermented.  It has a lot of other ingredients added – like flavourings, yeast, starches and colourings, gluten to give it the texture and flavour of meat. It also tastes awful, in my opinion!  Lentils and pulses are a much healthier alternative if you’re after vegetarian choices.

9 Fruit Juice

The easiest way to get lots of sugar into your system in a short space of time is by drinking it. And since it comes in as liquid, the body doesn’t register it as “eaten”, so it cunningly slips past any detectors that might otherwise signal satiety or ‘satisfaction’. Fruit juice – particularly when freshly squeezed – certainly contains lots of lovely vitamins and minerals, but it contains lots of sugar too. So, if I want to drink a juice it’s usually a vegetable based one with perhaps just 1 piece of low sugar fruit, like berries.  Better still to make that into a smoothie and add some protein (like some nuts) and a healthy fat too (like half an avocado). If you want fruit, eat whole fruit because. Don’t drink it.

Does this list surprise you? Are you struggling to make sense all the nutrition information out there? Or maybe you would like to know what foods to eat to regain your energy and wellbeing.  I can help you to clear some of this confusion.  Book a free introductory session with me by calling 07772491975, tell me more about your health goals and find out how nutritional therapy can help you.

Top tips on how to save money and eat well for less

Eating food you have cooked or prepared at home is healthier for you. It is also considerably cheaper. The key to this is planning. You’ve probably heard the saying ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’. Without a weekly food plan, it will be pure luck if you end up with the right foods in the fridge or cupboard. And, without planning your time, you won’t always make the time to enjoy breakfast or make that lunch.

You could be saving a LOT of money each week by following these tips.

HOW MUCH ARE YOU REALLY (OVER)SPENDING?

Be honest with yourself about your spending and shopping habits. That starts with looking into how much you spend each week on take-out coffee, croissants and other breakfasts; lunchtime salads, soups and sandwiches; snacks and other food treats; and ready meals, takeaways or last-minute meals out. Make a note every time you buy something (not the main food shop) to eat out of the house. Do this for a week, then multiply by 4 to give you an approximate monthly total.

Log into your banking app (or go online) and make a note of how much you spent over the last month on food.

Add the two figures together. This gives you your total for how much you are spending on food each month. I suspect you will be shocked. Most people are.

Commit to saving a certain amount each week or month. Decide what that is. Commit to it and write it down. What will you do with that extra money? Where can you economise?

PLAN YOUR PLANNING

Become a planning ninja. The thing about planning is that you need to plan to plan. It’s easy to get derailed by events, situations, relationships and tasks that insert themselves into our already busy lives.

Choose a time when you know you will be free every week to plan your meals – breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Ideally plan midweek for the following week. Put a reminder alarm on your phone. If this planning job doesn’t get done, you will have no choice but to shop on a day-to-day basis, which is much more expensive.

SHOP YOUR PLAN

As an experiment, spend at least one week only allowing yourself to buy what is on your shopping list. No extras! The planning and shopping discipline may take a little time to get used to, but it is worth persevering.

Off-list shopping and impulse buys are the biggest enemy for anyone wanting to keep to a budget. Do not go to the supermarket hungry. You are more likely to shop off-list when you do.

BUY IN SEASON

When fruit and vegetables hit peak production, they are usually cheaper. Buying food in season means you are saving money and eating better tasting food which has not travelled for miles.

BATCH COOK AND GET CREATIVE

Batch cook whenever possible, this will not only save you time but also money. A huge amount of food is thrown away, because we’re not sure what to do with leftovers. Make a commitment to using yours and prepare to save money. There is a bank of resources online to help you find easy recipe suggestions for pretty much anything you may have lurking in the fridge.

GOLDEN RULES OF HEALTHY EATING ON A BUDGET

  • INCLUDE PROTEIN AT EVERY MEAL AND SNACK

Protein keeps energy levels stable and is essential for the body’s growth and repair, and healthy skin and nails. Protein is found in meat and poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, lentils, beans, pulses (like chickpeas), quinoa, nuts and seeds. Protein should make up a quarter of your meal (about the size of a clenched fist). Many people do not have protein-based breakfasts. How can you change yours?

MONEY-SAVING TIP: the cheapest sources of protein are vegetarian sources, like beans and lentils. Consider going meat-free one or two days a week. Eggs sold as ‘mixed sizes’ are cheaper than buying all M or L.

  • EAT PLENTY OF FIBRE

That means lots of vegetables – likely more than you are currently eating. The recommendation is 5 portions of vegetables and 2 portions of fruit (ideally low sugar fruit like berries, apples, pears, plums – anything grown in the UK) a day. Fibre keeps energy levels constant, balances your hormones, fills you up, keeps you regular and those fruit and veg contain many immune-boosting plant chemicals. Aim to eat a rainbow of colours over the course of the week.

MONEY-SAVING TIP: Greengrocers are often the cheapest places to buy your veg. Also consider basing meals around special supermarket deals (example Aldi’s Super 6), and don’t rule out the basics and essentials ranges of veg (usually just means they are not regular shapes and sizes). Don’t rule out frozen vegetables either. They are cheap, often frozen soon after picking so they are very fresh and offer the ultimate convenience. And you are likely to waste less.

  • CHOOSE HEALTHY FATS

Eating fat doesn’t make you gain fat or otherwise put on weight, but some fats are healthier than others. The body loves omega 3 fats, which boost mood and support the stress response, and reduce inflammation. They are found in oily fish (salmon, trout, halibut, cod, fresh tuna, mackerel, sardines), flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts. Other healthy sources of fat are avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds.

MONEY-SAVING TIP: Frozen fish is a far cheaper option than refrigerated. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s inferior. Often supermarket ‘fishmonger’ counter fish has been frozen.

  • THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT STARCHY ‘CARBS’

Many diets rely heavily on white, pasta, bread, rice and potatoes, but these (especially when eaten without protein) can unbalance your blood sugar levels and cause you to store fat. Swap to healthier wholegrain alternatives; brown rice, wholemeal pasta and bread, and sweet potatoes, and ensure this element takes up no more than a quarter of your meal.

MONEY-SAVING TIP: Many people bulk up meals with starch, especially on a budget. Your body will love you for bulking meals up with veg instead. Eating large portions of starchy foods will have you craving more food than if you had more modest portions. 

  • CUT SUGAR

Most people have an understanding that sugar is not good for them. Eating sugary food is like a treadmill, with one biscuit creating the need for the next. Sugar creates a blood sugar or energy imbalance, fuels inflammation in the body, and makes you put on weight.

MONEY-SAVING TIP: Consider that the more sugar you eat, the more you need to eat. Sugary ‘treats’ soon become three times a day habit. Depending what you’re snacking on, cutting it out (or cutting down) could save several ££ each day.

USEFUL RESOURCES

Economy Gastronomy by Allegra McEvedy & Paul Merrett.

Save with Jamie by Jamie Oliver.

Eat, Shop, Save by Dale Pinnock.

Eat Well for Less (various books) by Greg Wallace & Chris Bavin.

If you need any help with your meals planning, food preparation or tips on how to spend less money on your food shopping get in touch to arrange a free 30 minutes session. Call me on 07772491975 or email info@stellanutrition.com .

Castagnaccio

Castagnaccio is a popular Italian winter cake made with chestnut flour. There are many variations to this cake according to which Italian region you visit, however this recipe has been taken and adapted from the book ‘Pausa Pranzo’ written by my amazing talented friend (and chef!) Stefano Arturi.

Chestnut flour is a great nutrients dense option as chestnuts are rich in complex carbohydrates (which are digested slowly giving you even energy levels), vitamin c, potassium, copper and magnesium.

Ingredients:

-250g chestnut flour
-500ml of coconut milk

-2 tsps vanilla essence
-4 tbs extra virgin olive oil (plus a little extra to sprinkle on top before baking)
-1 cup (100g) of pine nuts
-50g of raisins (soaked in water for 15 min)

-2 tsps chopped rosemary
-2 grated apple
-zest of 1 orange
-4 tbs maple syrup
-pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients (except from a tablespoon of pine nuts and the rosemary) in a large bowl. Pour the mixture in a greased baking tin and top it up with the pine nuts the rosemary and a little extra olive oil.

Bake in the oven at 180C for 30/40 minutes or until the surface starts to dry up.

This cake has no yeast, so it won’t raise at all.

Traditionally this is not a very sugary dessert and the taste is quite strong. If your kids are used to very sugary treats, they might need to try it a couple of times and develop a taste for it before they get to like it!

 Please notice that if you are allergic to nuts this flour might not be suitable for you.

Healthy Apple Crumble

I love Apple crumble but when I am out it’s hard to find a gluten free and not- too- sugary version, so in October when lovely apples are in season, I make my own.  For this recipe, try to find the sweetest apples you can find instead of tart cooking apples (Fuji’s are ideal but Gala and Braeburn apples would work as well) so you only need a little bit of maple syrup to add extra sweetness.

It’s so easy to make and it taste and smell delicious!

INGREDIENTS (Serves 4)

For the topping

75g oats

30g gluten free flour

25g unsalted butter, melted

25g chopped pecans

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp pure maple syrup

 

For the filling

750g chopped red apples

2 tbsp cornflour

2 tsp ground cinnamon

⅛ tsp ground nutmeg

 

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C and grease an 8”-square pan.
  2. To make the topping, combine the oats, pecans, flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Add the maple syrup and melted butter and mix well.
  3. For the filling, mix the apples with the cornflour, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl until completely coated.
  4. Transfer the filling to the pan, and gently press down with a spatula. Sprinkle evenly with the topping and bake for 50-60 minutes or until the apple pieces are tender. Let it cool before serving.

Should you ditch the scale?

The short answer is maybe, and the reason might surprise you.

I am not totally against scales and I do use one in my practice but only with clients who feel comfortable with this, and only once every four or five weeks. My scale is a body composition monitor which also measures fat and muscle percentages, visceral fat rating, metabolic age and muscle mass which tell a bigger picture than just weight. This scale is part of a set of tools which can be useful for some, but not all, people.

Studies have shown that weighing yourself regularly can help you maintain long-term weight loss. However, I don’t believe that people trying to lose weight should be constantly checking in with the scale and become obsessed with it. Weight can fluctuate incredibly from one day to the next for a variety of reasons, but when the number goes up or stays the same, despite exercising and eating well, people can end up feeling defeated and demoralised. That number can trigger a lot of emotions like guilt, fear, shame, frustration and anger which can lead to poor body image and negative self-talk. A slippery slope that can push you into bingeing or overeating.

But guess what? That number is just a number, it’s not you, it does not define who you are. You are not a number; your happiness and self-worth are not dictated by a number.

The truth is that while for some people the scale is an important and useful tool for maintaining weight loss, for others, it can stand in the way of success.

As a nutritionist and health coach offering personalised advice, I need to adjust what I do according to the specific client I have in front of me, and although most of my client’s goals are about weight loss, I never directly focus on this.

This might surprise you, but for me weight is just another sign showing that something in the body is out of balance. This could be because of hormonal issues, food sensitivities, inflammation, chronic stress, lack of sleep, or some other health problem. When we focus on regaining health and balance, on a physical and mental level, then the weight loss happens as a nice side benefit.

The way you feel, how your digestion is working, how well you sleep, how your body fight infections and how you deal with stress are all important markers of health, more important than any number on the scale.

The scale won’t tell you your overall health, or if you have more energy, or less pain and bloating.  It won’t tell you if your clothes are fitting better or if you are feeling more confident. It won’t tell you if your skin is glowing.  It won’t even tell you if are able to sleep better, run faster or exercise for longer. These are the important things you can rely on to keep you motivated.

If you really want some numbers, then a better way is to measure your waist, hip, -as well as your waist to hip ratio- chest, arms and thighs.

You can also keep track of how your clothes fit, because sometimes the number on the scale might be staying the same but you need to go shop for smaller clothes. This can happen if you switch your exercise routine, for instance, and you start to lose fat and gain muscle which is exactly what you want.

Focus on healing your relationship with food, improving your everyday eating habits, getting healthier, fitter, and more active. This can take the pressure off, allowing you to lead a healthier life and flourish.

If you want to find out how nutrition and coaching can help you reach your ideal weight and regain your health, call me on 07772491975 or email me at info@stellanutrition.comand book a complementary 30 minutes session and start your journey to better health.

 

Courgettes, Leeks and Pea Soup.

Courgette are in season now, and although I mainly make courgettis with them as a lighter alternative to pasta, blending courgettes in soups is a refreshing idea.

This is one is one of my favourite’s soups involving this versatile vegetable. Roasting the vegetables first brings out their sweetness and it enriches the final flavour.

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 950 g courgettes (about 3 large courgettes)
  • 2 leeks
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 750 ml vegetable stock
  • 200 g frozen peas
  • 20 g fresh basil
  • Grated parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC / 350ºF.

Trim the ends off the courgettes and the leeks and slice them into rounds of about 1cm. Place on the baking tray along with the garlic cloves (still in their skin), then drizzle everything in the olive, seasons with salt/pepper, and toss everything together.

Roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes, turning occasionally, until soft and slightly brown.

Meanwhile, heat the vegetable stock, add the peas and let them thaw.

When the roasted vegetables are ready add them to the stock, but first squeeze the flesh out of the garlic cloves and discard the skins.

Pour everything into a blender or food processor (I use a hand-held blender for this because it makes the washing up easier!), along with the basil.  Blitz to a smooth purée then taste and add salt and black pepper as required.

Sprinkle some grated parmesan cheese on top just before serving if you like a richer taste.

Bon Appetit!

8 top tips to body confidence on the beach

8 top tips to body confidence on the beach

Does the thought of wearing a bikini or any swimwear fill you with dread?

Do you spend all your time on the beach covered up and/or feeling self-conscious instead of relaxing and enjoying your time away?

Would you like to throw aside any insecurities and radiate confidence on holiday -and all year round?

Here you are my 8 top tips to help you feel good in your own skin and enjoy the beach!

TWO WEEKS TO GO

1: Beat the bloat

Often the reason we don’t feel confident on the beach is not actually down to our size or shape. It’s because we feel self-conscious that our tummy is sticking out and we feel uncomfortable and bloated. The secret to beating the bloat and creating the appearance of a flatter tummy is easier than you might think.

You just need to do a little “nutritional homework” before you hit the beach. That means starting the day with a cleansing cup of fresh ginger and lemon tea (mix peeled and grated ginger and squeezed lemon juice with boiling water). This will rev up the metabolism and cleanse the digestive system.

Then you need to up your protein intake, ideally two weeks before you go away to notice results. This means eating lots of fish like salmon, cod, haddock and mackerel. The protein in the fish will make you feel fuller for longer and stop you snacking in the day, while the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats will make your skin glow!

You want to find yourself thinking ‘where’s the protein’ at every meal and snack but this is one of the key ways of keeping your energy levels (and weight) balanced. Protein-based snacks can include a piece of low sugar fruit like an apple, pear or a couple of plus a small handful of nuts, hummus and veggie sticks, or even some unsweetened nut butter on toast.

Next, stock up on asparagus, which contains high levels of amino acid asparagine – a natural diuretic. In other words, eating more of the spears can help flush out excess fluid and salt from your body, which can help you look leaner and feel more confident on the beach.

 2: Be carbs smart

Carbs certainly aren’t the enemy, and the body uses the right kinds of unrefined carbohydrates – like brown rice, lentils, and oatmeal – to generate energy. But if you’re trying to lose a few pounds pre-holiday, then ditching processed (also known as refined) carbs is an effective way to see quick results. This is because simple carbohydrates like white pasta, white bread and potatoes are metabolized very quickly into sugar by the body. And that sugar is then turned into fat – especially if not balanced by something containing protein.

Calories don’t make you feel full – nutrients like fibre, protein and healthy fats do. Sadly, refined carbs are lacking in all three so no matter how much you eat, your body will still feel hungry, meaning you’re more likely to over-eat.

So, in the run up to your holiday, you can boost your body confidence by being ‘carbs smart’ and cutting back/swapping refined carbs for high-fibre foods like beans, brown rice and nuts. Instead of white toast and sugary jam for breakfast, toast some tummy-friendly rye bread (which doesn’t spike your blood sugar levels) and eat with a protein-rich poached egg, which will fill you up until lunchtime. For lunch, have a crisp green salad with King prawns or mackerel and lots of raw veggies. Then feed your body with nutrients with a dinner of stir-fried chicken and broccoli with a little brown rice. Alternate your lunches and dinners with different proteins and vegetables, and you’ll soon see the pounds fall off.

3: Try the Toothbrush Work-out

Fitting exercise into our busy lives isn’t always easy. Even with the best intentions, after a long day at work or taking care of the kids, often a workout is the last thing we feel like doing. But you can start by just moving your body a little more, like taking the stairs instead of the lifts, and try to fit a mini workout whenever you can, even from the comfort of your own home.

For example, what about squatting once in the morning for five minutes while you clean your teeth, and again at night-time? To squat, stand with feet hip width apart. Then lower your knees and push your bum out as if you’re sitting down on a chair. Rise up to standing position and repeat until you’ve finished brushing your teeth!

The squat is a full body workout that not only helps to create a perky posterior and lean legs; it also works the abs giving you a flatter stomach and bags of bikini body confidence

ONE WEEK TO GO

4: Drink yourself slim

Water is one of the most important elements in the body. It makes up about 60 per cent of our bodies and every single cell needs water to function properly. Drinking the stuff also keeps you energized and your skin hydrated. So if you’re full of energy and your skin is glowing, that’s one surefire way to feel good on the beach.

Studies have also shown that drinking water raises your metabolism and improves your fat burning rate. And if that wasn’t reason enough to start knocking back the H2O, drinking water before a meal can help you feel fuller and eat less. A good goal is to get yourself a 1.5l bottle of water from the shops (and refill at home on subsequent days) and ensure you finish this by the end of the day – on top of any other drinks you’re having. The bottle is a visual reminder of how well you are doing. Ideally, you want to work up to having 2l a day.

Not a fan of water? Make yourself an herbal tea instead! There are tons of different ones out there to experiment with. Green tea is also an option, it’s packed with powerful antioxidants and it has been shown to raise metabolism too. Watch out though as it still has caffeine and avoid having it after lunchtime if you have troubles sleeping.

Coconut water is also great for keeping you hydrated, while controlling your blood sugar levels. Low in fat, it can help you feel fuller and reduce cravings. 

 5: Work with what you’ve got

Feeling confident in a swimming costume or bikini isn’t really about losing weight or having a supermodel body. Confidence comes also from feeling good about how you look and finding a flattering swimsuit for your body shape is key.

If you have a boyish figure, rock a bikini with ruffles to create some shape. For women larger than a C-cup, avoid triangle-style bikinis that don’t provide any support. Instead take advantage of bra-style, underwired swimwear for a customized fit.

Smaller busts can fake a cleavage by investing in one of the many great padded bikini tops out there. Go shopping, high Street stores like M&S, Boden and Topshop have lots of pretty swimwear options with inbuilt secret slimming panels to help you feel your best on the beach.

Just find something you feel confident in and rock it!

3 DAYS TO GO

 6: Embrace your uniqueness               

One of the easiest ways to feel bad about how you look is to compare yourself to others. When you feel envious of what someone else has, be it long legs, a flat tummy or toned arms, you are creating negative feelings around your own appearance, which crushes confidence and mood. Remember: to wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are.

Why not be as nice to yourself as you are to the people you love? Ask yourself: would I say this to my best friend, my sister, or my mum? If you can’t imagine saying something so nasty to them, then why are you saying it to yourself? Rather than use negative language to describe your body and the areas you dislike, pinpoint the bits you’re happy with.

Silence your inner critic and the positive feelings will soon overtake the bad. Tell yourself… aren’t I lucky to have such a peachy, curvy bum! Doesn’t my back look fantastic in that halter-neck dress! Isn’t my hourglass figure lovely! Aren’t I fortunate to have a fuller bust that really fills my bikini!

Spending time with negative people will also have an impact on how you view, and feel about, yourself. The more you complain about your own perceived flaws, the more you’re likely to believe they are real.

Confidence is contagious so banish body shaming and surround yourself with positive people who make you feel good. These kinds of friends will also make you smile and laugh more, which releases happy hormones called endorphins.

7: Stand up straight

Good posture not only makes you look confident, it also helps you appear long and lean. Even the most toned women in the world don’t look their best when they are hunched over. And no matter how flat that tummy is, slouching will naturally curve the spine forward, creating rolls on the belly. It can also make you appear inches shorter than you really are.

Posture can even affect your frame of mind. A recent study by researchers from Harvard University found that when a person stood tall and erect, it altered their hormone levels, decreasing the stress hormone cortisol and increasing testosterone, causing them to feel more powerful and in control.

For good posture simply throw the shoulders back, puff the chest out and hold your head high.

1 DAY TO GO

 8: Love the skin you’re in

Being happy and confident doesn’t mean that everything (and that includes your body) is perfect. It simply means that you’ve chosen to accept and embrace life, a little cellulite and all. Our bodies were designed to function, so think of all the amazing ways your body has been good to you. Celebrate daily how incredible you are and be grateful that you have a healthy, working body! This is fantastic exercise that sends a really empowering message to the brain to feel happy and confident.

Next, think about being 20 years older than you are right now. Would you like to look back on your life and think: “I wish I had accepted myself and been happier in my skin” or would you prefer to think: “I had the best time on that beach with my friends and family and I really enjoyed myself”? Thinking with the benefit of hindsight gives us a better sense of perspective about what we should be minding, and what really matters.

Now go, pack that bag and have a fantastic holiday!

Summer drinks

Summer parties are often filled with sweet, alcoholic drinks that can lead to weight gain and unbalance your blood sugar levels.

If you are trying to avoid sugar and alcohol, it’s not always easy to know what to drink instead without feeling deprived.

Here you are a few delicious and refreshing alternatives for you to try.

 

Strawberry lemonade

Serves 8

2 litres water

8 squeezed lemons (around 280 ml)

1/2 -3/4 tsp liquid stevia (try NuNaturals)

250g strawberries, sliced

In a large jug combine water, lemon juice and stevia. Simply stir in sliced strawberries and serve over ice.

 

Cucumber, mint + lemon fizz

Serves 6

1.5ltr sparkling water

half a sliced cucumber

10 mint leaves

1 sliced lemon

Put all the ingredients in a large jug, chill and serve.

 

Sparkling cherries

Serves 2

4tbsp Cherry Active (you can buy this in any health food store)

500ml sparkling water

Add sparkling water to the Cherry Active and serve with ice.

 

Garden Sour

Seedlip Garden (a distilled, non-alcoholic drink*), 50ml

Cloudy apple juice, 35ml

Lemon Juice, 15ml

Cider vinegar, 5ml

Sprig of rosemary & thyme

You might have heard of Seedlip, it’s a premium distilled non-alcoholic drink. The price may make you wince (it’s no cheaper than buying alcoholic spirits) but it’s hot news this year and making an appearance in all the top bars!  Find it at www.seedlipdrinks.com

 

Sparkling kombucha

Kombucha is a healthy alternative to sparkling soft drinks known for being full of naturally occurring vitamins, acids, and beneficial bacteria.

You can make your own kombucha – to be honest I haven’t tried yet….as you know I am pretty lazy when it comes to kitchen experiments- or you can buy it ready made in pretty much all the health stores out there.

 

Cheers!

5 secrets to a happy and healthy menopause.

Until recently, when celebrities like Cameron Diaz, Gillian Anderson and Kirsty Walk started speaking out about their experiences, menopause was the silent shame. Yet experts reckon that 80% of women experience the symptoms of menopause.

 

It might be that you are really suffering or perhaps you’ve just started noticing some changes. The experience is different for every woman but often means being hot, cold, moody, tired, sleep-deprived, nervy, irritable, sad, or hairy. It can mean hot flushes, memory loss, and a seemingly immovable band of fat around the middle and thighs.

 

Your fluctuating hormones are the cause of all of this, but you don’t have to accept these symptoms as the way things need to be.

Learning to rebalance your hormones naturally will help you take back control of your life. Given life expectancy increases, women can expect to spend at least a third of their life ‘menopausal’, so it’s worth getting the help you need now. Despite what you might have feared, menopause is not the death of your youth or vitality, but it can be the start of some of the best and most powerful years of your life.

 

You may not have given your hormones a second’s thought before but, given the rollercoaster you are on right now, it’s worth having some understanding of what’s going on chemically inside you and the impact it’s having.

Progesterone levels fall rapidly as you stop ovulating as regularly. Although oestrogen is likely decreasing, too, it’s falling at a slower rate, meaning you can end up being oestrogen dominant (that’s a ratio of too much oestrogen to progesterone). This is usually what’s behind many of the typical symptoms experienced during the transition to menopause.

The stress hormone cortisol can also increase (particularly if you’re used to spinning too many plates), making sleep more difficult and leading to weight gain.

 

The thyroid comes under increased pressure, and low levels of thyroid hormones can bring mood changes, weight increases, constipation

and a sluggish feeling. Your hormones work together synergistically. When one or more is out of kilter, there is an effect on the others, too.

 

So, what can you do to help your body sail through this challenging time?

 

  1. Watch what you eat.

 

Unfortunately realising that during the menopause you really cannot get away with eating the same foods you used to, can be quite tough. But, let’s face it your body has changed, and you need to learn to eat for this new way of being.

 

The drop in oestrogen levels that occurs during menopause has a side effect of redistributing body fat and excess pounds start to settle around the waist. On top of that, the change that happens in relation to oestrogen and progesterone at this stage of life is also likely to make your body less sensitive to insulin, the fat storage hormone. This is produced in response to you eating carbohydrates.

When the body’s cells are less sensitive to insulin, more insulin is needed to do the same job, and more insulin produced means more fat stored.

 

There are also lifestyle factors to consider. Muscle mass diminishes with age while fat increases. That means it’s more important than ever to switch from whatever kind of diet you’re on now to a low GL (glycaemic load) diet that balances your blood sugar levels. This means you will be eating foods that do not trigger insulin secretion in response to what you eat.

 

A blood sugar balancing diet like this focuses on REAL food: meat, fish, eggs, tofu, lentils, beans and chickpeas, lots of vegetables, some fruit, nuts, seeds and wholegrains.

You won’t feel hungry – promise – but, if this is a long way from where you are now, I’d love to help you move to this way of eating. Work with me and it will feel easy rather than an uphill struggle or – worse still – devoid of all those little props you have used to get yourself through these trying times.

 

 

  1. Eat functional foods.

 

These are foods that actually do stuff in the body.

On one level, the food you eat can help balance your blood sugar and energy levels. On another it keeps you feeling satiated and nourishes you. The cherry on top is to use the very subtle yet magical powers of food to help support your body in times of need. At this time of your life, that means phytoestrogens.

Phytoestrogens are plant-based chemicals (the good kind), which are structurally similar to oestrogen and exert a weak oestrogenic effect.

They include soy beans, lentils, beans, chickpeas, tofu, barley, rye, oats, alfalfa, apples, pears, carrots, fennel, onion, garlic, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, liquorice root

 

 

  1. Manage your stress.

 

Cortisol is one of the main stress hormones and it can make you fat and feel both tired and miserable as well as using up stores of important vitamins.

You probably already know that dwindling oestrogen levels are one of the main factors behind your symptoms. However, the effects of stress can be just as debilitating.

 

Most hormones are made from the same basic ingredients. When it’s under stress, the body prioritises those jobs that are useful for sustaining life, which means that when you are stressed, your body will make stress hormones ahead of anything else. So, all those raw materials that might have gone to make oestrogen now won’t.

 

Apart from your fat cells, the only source of oestrogen after your ovaries stop making it, is the adrenal glands, which is where the stress hormones are made.

 

So self care in your 40s and 50s is no longer a ‘nice thing to do’, it is essential for managing symptoms of the transition to menopause and also – might I add – staying alive. If you have not been good (and many women aren’t) at putting your needs first and doing nice things for yourself, start now.

 

Write down 5 activities you really enjoy doing – even if it’s been a while since you did any of them! Examples might include painting your nails, doing a jigsaw, taking a bath surrounded by candles!

 

 

  1. Do the right exercise

 

As the weight creeps on, it’s very common for women to start getting into the types of exercise that are very punishing on the body, like running and high intensity interval training. What do I mean by punishing? These very intense forms of exercise stress the body and, if your body is already stressed, it’s just too much. Yoga, Pilates, Zumba and other dance-based classes could be better choices, and don’t knock a decent walking workout.

 

Resistance/ strength exercise (weights) is also great to help with the loss of muscle. Strength training also helps you shore up bone, maintain balance, and avoid injury—important for protecting your skeleton both now and when you’re older.

 

 

  1. Get better sleep

 

You have probably heard about all the good things sleep can do for you, from making you look younger and feel more energised to helping you lose weight – and so much in between. Sleep is good, and you should get more of it.

As you work on a diet and lifestyle plan to get your hormones back into balance, better sleep with start to follow. If it feels like you need some emergency assistance, ask yourself honestly how many of the ‘dos’ you are actually doing and how many of the ‘don’ts’ you are guilty of…

 

Dos:

 

  • Try to go to bed at the same time every day. Your body thrives on routine.
  • Keep the temperature in your bedroom comfortable; not too hot, nor too cold.
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex. This may help you completely switch off.
  • Keep the bedroom completely dark, so you’re not disturbed by light, which your brain detects even when your eyes are closed. Eye masks can be useful.
  • Spend time outdoors to soak up the sun.
  • Try to take some gentle exercise every day. There is evidence that regular exercise improves restful sleep. This includes stretching and aerobic exercise. A brisk walk ticks both boxes.
  • Make an effort to relax for at least 5 minutes before going to bed – a warm bath, massage, meditation.
  • Keep your feet and hands warm. Wear warm socks and/or mittens or gloves to bed.
  • Consider getting a traditional alarm clock so your smartphone can stay out of the bedroom.

 

Don’ts:

 

  • Engage in stimulating activities – like playing a competitive game, watching an edge-of-the seat movie, or having an important conversation with a loved one.
  • Even using smartphones and tablets can interfere with sleep, because they emit the same kind of light as the morning sun.
  • Eat a heavy meal within four hours of going to bed.
  • Drink caffeine after lunch – like coffee, ‘normal’ and green tea, and colas.
  • Use alcohol to help you sleep. Alcohol can make sleep more disturbed.
  • Try to avoid daytime naps.
  • Try not to get frustrated if you can’t sleep. Go to bed in a positive mood – “I will sleep tonight”.

 

 

You should always talk to your doctor about symptoms you are particularly concerned about, but there is such a lot you can do to feel more energised than you do right now and fix that spare tyre round the middle.

 

If you are experiencing any of the issues I set out at the beginning, and you feel this is the right time for a brand new you -new eating plan, new attitude and new healthy lifestyle habits- then get in touch!

 

 

How to make the perfect cauliflower rice

If you are trying to cut down on refined carbs and need a tasty alternative or if you just want to introduce more healthy vegetables, cauliflower rice is a great choice. You just need a food processor to blitz the florets into rice-like pieces that can then be microwaved, pan-fried or roasted to create a light, fluffy rice-like addition to meals of all kinds.

Experimenting with flavours is all part of the fun. You will find your own personal favourite way of cooking it. Here’s how to get started.

MAKE IT

Remove the outer leaves, cut into florets and remove most of the thick core. If you have a large cauliflower, blitz half the cauliflower at a time. Pulse until the cauliflower resembles rice or cous cous. If you don’t have a food processor, you can grate it but it will take a lot longer and you will be left with a slightly chunkier texture. Once you’ve created the cauliflower rice, you can store it covered in the fridge for up to three days or in the freezer for two months.
My favourite way to cook cauliflower rice is to roast it. Drizzle it with a little olive oil and spread it into a roasting tray for 15 mins at 180˚C, mixing it half way through cooking. Season with salt after cooking so it doesn’t go soggy.

I like to experiment with flavour, adding a little cumin, and chili to the mix, but I have equally experimented with a little garlic, rosemary and, sparingly, finely grated lemon zest.

The combinations are endless. Enjoy it!