Posts Tagged ‘tips’

Just BREATHE!

Finances can put my stomach into knots at the best of time. Add in a generous serving of HMRC, an incompetent bank, an unwanted Limited Company, incomprehensible tax laws, accountants that never reply to emails and an inefficient payroll department, and frankly it is enough to send me over the edge. Or over to the beige side at least. I was doing some serious self-medicating yesterday. Foolishly, because self-medicating makes me feel worse than I did, before the day is through, and I kind of enjoyed the discomfort by way of penance for my foolishness…note to self…harmony..harmony….harmony between what I know and what I do…..

You don’t have to practice yoga to know that deep breathing has a calming affect upon us. Everyone knows that. “Take a deep breath“…….You can actually feel the tensed up muscles relaxing, and I can almost visualise the life giving oxygen flooding my system. I have even read that deep breathing- with a clean diet of course!- can aid in some small way with weight loss or weight maintenance.

Why?

Firstly because deep breathing increases your metabolism (supposedly) and maintains it throughout the day; other benefits then, can include greater energy levels and mental clarity (Again- with clean eating and good sleep routines  for optimum levels of  energy and an alert mind)

Secondly, when you are stressed, your body releases adrenaline  and cortisol.  Adrenaline helps your fat cells release energy (glucose) for a fight-or-flight. Cortisol helps produce glucose from proteins as an  extra back-up. The problem is not an occasional flight-or-flight “rush”. the problem is when you are almost constantly stressed, for various reasons.   This leads to an almost constant state of excess cortisol production. Excess cortisol stimulates glucose production. This excess glucose then typically ends up as stored fat.

There are a number of research studies that have shown that fat cells can, in the presence of too much adrenaline, become resistant to the effects of adrenaline. . In other words, eventually, they won’t release the fat that the adrenaline “tells” them to, but through the presence of high cortisol, they’re more responsive to fat storage.   At the same time, high levels of circulating cortisol increase the risk of obesity and increased fat storage — and particularly, abdominal obesity, one of the most dangerous types of obesity, and one that contributes to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease.

To this we add, that in times of stress, we tend to “self-medicate” like I was yesterday (ironic phrase) with foods that are either high-fat, high-sugar, or both. Or perhaps we self-medicate with drinks like caffeinated drinks, coffee, alcohol or sugary drinks, which either throw our blood sugar out of whack or increase cortisol levels in our system once again.

In short friends……Eat clean. Breathe deeply.  Love.

And -when relevant- get a decent accountant.

How to help your kids eat more fruit and veggies (Dull title, exciting quest!)

No really, it’s exciting. It doesn’t need to take over your life (nor should it) But while we try and foster the best development of their mind, spirit, self-esteem….let us not forget their body! So here are some tips. I aint no expert, and certainly not the perfect example, but some of these may work for you, just like they have (sometimes) worked for me!

1. Sneak ’em  I was a stealth onion and garlic user in my kitchen for many a long month, it always got blended in, since Ellie found a piece of onion in her food and said “eeeeuh, what’s this thing with LINES on it??!!” You can sneak all sorts of things in when it’s blended in- celery, red lentils, peppers, onion, garlic, and all sorts of other delights.. It all makes for a more harmonious mealtime 🙂  And they are eating foods that they would normally fuss over. I know of people who sneak beetroot or courgette into their chocolate cake too.

2. Don’t sneak ’em That said, neither do you want to be always hiding your veggies like they are some dirty secret 🙂 One day when Ellie was telling me how “allergic” she was to onion (ie- she hates it) I felt duty bound to inform her that almost everything I made had onion and garlic in. I told her I blended it in, and it was actually delicious, and at that she was content. Sometimes we sneak lots of veggies in to get them an extra nutritious meal. But also, the point is not just vitamins (for me) The point is for them to get used to eating different things at the table in a group and in some cases, realise that they are actually tastier than they supposed. To do this, they need to confront their greens, as greens! Or whatever they may be. So don’t always sneak ’em….

3.Grow ’em I wrote a post about this once (here) I am not much of a gardener. While I blame my small rented garden,  I know that amazing things can be done in small spaces if you put your mind to it. One summer we did a lot of growing, and it was the only time Amelia ate cucumber. “I don’t like cucumber…but I am having some of this..because it’s OURS!” (And so she did) My friends little boy eats french beans raw off the vine- she said it took a couple of years but now her sons (aged 5 and 3) mosy round the veggie patch and forage themselves an on-the-spot-salad. They definitely take a special interest in food they have helped raise up.As do we all  🙂

4. Eat ’em   I don’t think we can expect children to share our taste for everything, as our palates seem to mature to appreciate bitter, stronger flavours with time, but I think the more they see us enjoy eating veggies, pulses, beans, salads, fruits, nuts and seeds, the more likely it is that they will eat them too. With very young children this is definitely true- haven’t you noticed how they always want what’s on your plate?

It took my girls a long, LONG time before they would even consider trying a green smoothie, even though I insisted it didn’t taste funny, but day after day they saw me enjoying them and finally curiosity got the better of them. For breastfeeding mothers, as I understand it, they will be more likely to appreciate a wide range of flavours if you have been eating those things while nursing, as it actually changes the subtle flavour of your milk.

5. Market ’em I know someone who serves their children “cheese on the trees” (broccoli trees with a little melted cheese on top) One halloween we did “Spooky trees on green noodles” (click for details) and somehow they were more excited to eat purple cauliflower and romanesco broccoli because that day they were not cruciferous veggies, they were “spooky trees”.  My daughters love frozen strawberries stuck on a cocktail stick because it’s like a lollipop (their invention) Green smoothies taste better in a wine glass or with a straw (fact!) I appreciate that these marketing tips work better for smaller children, but you may be surprised……

6.Blend ’em, juice’em  You would not believe how excited my 2 year old son is to feed things into the juicer. He drinks the greenest concoctions on occasion. “More green juice” he said once. He never said it again….but- HOW COOL  🙂  And if you read this blog regularly you know how I feel about blended greens. It may not be a huge quantity but it’s always great when your child can have a small handful of leaves per day- and enjoy it!

7. Chop ’em fine.  “Rainbow rice” or couscous (recommended- brown rice or wholewheat couscous)  Throw in finely chopped carrot, peas, corn, red pepper, broccoli, red cabbage(prawns always go down well too!)- in short- whatever you have, making sure there are plenty of colours and that they like most of it, though not necessarily all of it 🙂 When they invariably sniff out what they don’t like (because we all know they can spot an unwanted particle at 50 paces)- just say “Come on, it’s so small, you won’t even notice- mix it up with some other stuff you like!”

8. Have ’em help. In the same way that they take more interest when they have grown the plant, sometimes it can definitely make a difference when they have helped cook or prepare it. Have them choose out something new (or familiar) and look up a recipe online and help you make it.

9.Rotate ’em  Don’t they say a child has to be exposed, what is it,up to 7 times to something before they can get a taste for it? Just because they don’t seem to like something, doesn’t mean you can’t/shouldn’t try again later. I am seriously amazed that chickpeas are growing on Ellie, she used to almost shed tears if they turned up, and the other day she was shovelling them in without a word. I mean, actually shovelling. (They were in rice. It’s all about packaging?!) We can all think of foods that we used to dislike that have slowly grown on us over time.

Finally, number 10: Don’t expect ’em to like everything. We all have our personal preferences and tastes even as adults. I guess we need to respect that too. I am sure you will find that balance in your home. Meanwhile:

Speak up! Share if you have any tips, thoughts, insights or ideas- I am sure we can all learn a lot from each other.

 

Please feel free to share ideas that have worked for you and your family.

With love. x

What is your why?

Why do you want to eat and drink cleaner and greener?

Some people will answer “to lose weight”. Now ask yourself the same question again . There must be another reason, or you may as well do Slimfast, Weightwatchers or Atkins Diet, right?

Why else do you feel drawn to cleaning up your diet?  Why would you choose eating cleaner as a weight loss method, over one of the “diets on the market”?

Collect together all your reasonings, which may or may not be some of the following:

PHYSICAL

  • Strengthen my immune system
  • Flush out toxins by eating more water based fruit and veg
  • Give my liver a break!
  • Give my pancreas a break!
  • Clear my skin up
  • Help my body to deal more efficiently with (xyz) chronic condition
  • To help my digestion
  • I want to give my body clean fuel for my workouts
  • I suspect that an excess of (processed food/meat/fried foods/dairy/white carbs/sugar) is causing/aggravating my problem with………..
  • I remember when I ate cleaner and my energy levels were much better
MENTAL/INTELLECTUAL
  • Better concentration levels/mental clarity
  • I hate having brain fog around 3pm every day
  • I can’t even focus on my studies when I need sugar/Coke /…….(insert)
EMOTIONAL/SPIRITUAL
  • I want to help my family eat better as a whole and I need to set the example
  • Eating more plants over meat as a compassionate choice
  • Eating closer to the earth “just feels right”
  • I think eating healthy will make me feel better in myself generally
  • I remember when I ate really well and I just felt good inside
  • I am sick of craving junk food (this is also physical)
  • I feel out of control with some food addictions
  • To care better for my body which houses my spirit/inner self

Whatever your “WHY” is, THE BIGGER, THE BETTER!! The greater and deeper your desire to clean up how you eat, the easier it will be to make the transition (which is a journey with inevitable ups, downs, pitfalls, and experimentations with what is “right” for you…….)

Please allow me to link to some previous posts I have written. Here’s hoping they may help.

“I wish I could enjoy healthy food, I just prefer junk!”  An empowering discovery I made

“Is it really true what they say about sugar affecting our mood/emotional well-being?”  Yes, it is. read this!

“Should I do one of those detox cleanse things?”  Read this

“But I love chocolate!” Try this

“But I love baking!” Me too!

“I miss my old stuff, this is not fun!”  If you’re not having fun, read this!

“I want to make healthy juices but I don’t have a juicer!”  This will start you off

Enjoy the journey!

Things that work together

Strawberries and summer days. Crunchy autumn leaves and cosy walking boots. Great music and closed eyes. Friends and laughter. Painted toenails and summer sandals. Mango and spinach. Did I lose you on the last one?

A sweet ripe mango +  water +  2 handfuls of raw babyleaf spinach is the simplest of all green smoothies. They work together. You will love it. And best of all:  it will love you right back!

Here are some green combinations that work together. Required: Blender

  • Mango, spinach (Alternative: Substitute the water for fresh orange juice, and a squeeze of lemon if you wish. A glug of “not from concentrate” smoothie can help give it a lift if you are beginning and/or in a hurryAnd if you crazy busy in the mornings, and are blessed enough to be able to access frozen mango chunks, you save yourself some work- just thaw a cupfull the night before.) 
  • Ripe pear, kiwi, squeeze of lime, spinach/kale
  • Cantaloupe melon, apple, spinach  (add half a ripe avocado for a creamy drink)
  • Oranges (whole), ripe banana, frozen strawberries, spinach or other greens
  • Orange, lemon, pineapple, greens (like the “orange lemon and pienapple” you used to drink as a kid. Only not…)
  • Pineapple, frozen blueberries, greens
  • Mango, apples, lemon juice, greens

If you blend up a concoction and you are not keen on it, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater-just work it out: what does it need?

  • Too thick and gloopy? Add water or fruit juice or a glug of quality smoothie
  • Too watery? Add half  a banana, or a chopped apple. If using water (recommended) only add enough to get the blender going at first or you will dilute all that lovely fruitiness too much
  • Not sweet enough? Add ripe banana, a strawberry or three, or a little fruit-only juce/smoothie
  • Still not sweet enough? Add some honey or maple syrup.
  • Not quite “something” enough? Sometimes a squeeze of lemon is just what it needs. It’s like the salt of green smoothies.
  • Too “green” for your taste? This is not a usual scenario as most people start quite cautiously!  Kale is strong but even that you can end up enjoying.
  • Too sweet? Maybe you could try savoury smoothies: (Details via this link) or a home-made gazpacho for breakfast (Click for recipe)

I don’t even know if you like painted toenails and summer sandals (on yourself, or others)

but I highly recommend you start whizzing up green smoothies.

It’s a no-brainer delicious way of consuming plenty of fruit and raw greens and helping your children do the same. If they are very small you won’t even have to convince them, just insert straw.

And unlike summer sandals (which I sometimes wonder if I will get out this year) you can love them every day of the year. To your health!! (And fingers crossed for a decent UK summer!)

Healthy eating on the go

I have memories of my uni friend and I, sitting on some couches in the Student Union, with a small loaf of wholewheat bread, and a bunch of ripe bananas (both just purchased from the Uni supermarket) and preparing makeshift banana sandwiches. It wasn’t fancy, and we probably looked ridiculous, but it was our answer to a healthy lunch that also happened to be cheap, and filling.We did this so often that people started to recognise us with our little sandwich bar. Sometimes you just have to be resourceful!

When hunger strikes on the go, and you are not prepared for it, you generally end up spending more, and if you are after healthy options, depending on where you are and what your criteria are, you may have a more limited choice.Of course, the larger the place, the more likely you will be able to find a healthy option, but there are days you may only be able to find white carbs and dubious looking substances pretending to be meat.

Here are some tips for when you are out and about or travelling further afield.

TUPPERWARE. Little tubs in your bag are not just for parents weaning babies onto solids!

  • Fresh fruit
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Nuts, seeds, dried fruits,healthsome crackers
  • Hummous, home made guacamole (add lemon juice to avoid browning), nut pates
  • A pre-made salad with dressing in a tiny screw-top jar (inside the tupperware) Don’t forget the fork.
BRING A BOTTLE We always forget water when we go out, and my kids are always thirsty for water. I find buying water so annoying when I have already payed expensive water rates and for a water filter cartridge at home. Drinking water also helps keep your metabolism nice and high, aiding weight loss to a small degree.
To go one step further, you could squeeze your own juice, or prepare a home-made smoothie. If you make it green, prepare for comments! My husband took one to work once, on his own request. His friend said “What is THAT?”  So of course, instead of saying- “it’s this amazing smoothie, it’s got green leaves in,in but it tastes fruity and delicious. I love it!”…he answered almost apologetically, “My wife made it for me.”  She answered: “Mate…whatever you’ve done…TELL HER YOU’RE SORRY!”   🙂
A Thermos is also great for taking warm soups or stews, with a piece of wholegrain bread wrapped in foil- what a lovely lunch!
SUPERMARKETS are almost everywhere now, and are a godsend to the lover of good wholesome food who may not want a pasty or a sandwich. Some supermarkets do a build-your-own salad bar, and all of them have pre-made ones with plastic forks in. If you plan to buy a salad and you prefer a home-made dressing, then make yourself up one beforehand at home.
HEALTH FOOD STORES have a bit of everything, not all of it healthy…but you are more likely to find some alternative energy bars with little or no sugar than in a regular store.
HALF AND HALF  You can always bring things from home to adapt/supplement what you are going to buy. If you plan to grab a take-away jacket potato but you want a crunchy, raw filling, bring a salad from home. Or if you plan to grab a soup, you could bring some wholegrain bread from home, as this is one of the things that tend to be hard to find out and about. If you plan to buy a salad, you could bring some home-made dressing, and know exactly what’s in it. I love creamy cashew ones (with dill, a la ranch, or simple extra virgin olive oil and balsamic, for example) (Bring a fork!) Take some veggie sticks, and buy a pot of hummous out and about.
ASK This is a little trickier, and it depends on where you are, but you can always ask if you can switch things up a bit on the menu. Once I was out and even though it wasn’t listed exactly like this, I asked if she would mind getting me a plain jacket potato and a large raw salad, and she was more than happy to work out a price for me. Of course if she wasn’t willing or able to, I would have been flexible, but I really wanted that and I thought it was worth an ask. I brought my own dressing 🙂
SWEET TREATS If one of your particular aims is to avoid sugar, be aware that when you are most likely to crave it is when you are out, about, and hungry. It’s just the rules- it’s how it works. Bringing an alternative for those craving moments is always a great idea. This pre-supposes you have developed a list of “alternatives” that work for you. Planning is the name of the game!
That’s all for now. Enjoy your  day!

Have you drunk your greens today??

This post is dedicated to my beautiful Andaluzan friend Noemi, (which is Spanish for Naomi) who now lives in the good old US of A. When I first met Noemi in Spain, we ate a LOT of ice cream together! But she also taught me a lot about good, wholesome simple Spanish food. Her favourite supper was a bit of white fish with either a simple salad, or some steamed vegetables with olive oil and a pinch of salt.

Curiously, almost a decade later and thousands of miles apart, and somewhat out of touch, we both found our health paths converging (erm- hello? is that a word? I am so rusty!) She suddenly posted something on Facebook about “Green Smoothies”, and I thought “Wait- I drink those! Somebody else that I actually know drinks those! Ohmygosh!”

The short version of my story was that I was getting desperate with a looooooong term health issue that regular medication could not seem to shift. Not life-endangering but OH, SO not nice! My Mum passed me a book that she had read (I don’t know if she passed it to me out of enthusiasm, or if she didn’t find it “for her”…never mind..the main thing is, this book came into my hands, called “Green For Life“. I read it in a day or two, and kind of said to myself “erm- well, lets give this a crack shall we?  Fresh fruit smoothies supercharged with leafy greens? It can’t do any harm!”

Day 1- I literally bought myself a bag of curly kale and some ripe bananas, and threw it in a blender with some water. NOTE: I would not recommend starting with curly kale- it has a kind of strongish flavour, and it may put you off green elixirs for life.My discomfort and nigh-on desperation was driving me and I chugged back two massive glasses a day- morning and evening- about a litre a day. It was GREEN, amigos!!

Within a few days my issue had subsided, and I was so excited- and continued with one large smoothie a day. I then discovered that babyleaf spinach and Lambs Lettuce (corn salad) are very mild tasting, but also very nutritious so I switched up my leaves from time to time. I also discovered ways to make it considerably more delicious than just banana 🙂  Since then, I have made it an (almost) daily habit and I have my family on board (most of the time!)  Oh- did I mention that I have never had a problem with my previous health issue? I do not have perfect health- I have issues, leftovers from decisions of yesteryear, but nowadays they rarely rear their ugly heads- kept at bay by the power of greenness!  🙂

So- even though I have posted about these before- here are a few reminders for those who want to get those raw greens doing their wonder-stuff!

  • All you need is a regular old tabletop blender (ie “liquidiser”)
  • Liquid+Fruit+Greens+extras
  • Liquid: I use water. You could also use coconut water or almond milk. For quite a while I used a bit of shop-bought smoothie/fruit-only juice, and this helps kids drink them
  • Fruit: Ripe bananas, frozen berries (strawberries add sweetness, the rest add a little acidity), mango,pineapple,sweet pears- experiment!
  • Greens: the mildest tasting ones are babyleaf spinach and lambs lettuce (corn salad) and can be piled in with gay abandon, frankly. Curly kale, swiss chard, beet greens, romaine lettuce?
  • Extras (optional): sweetness (dates, honey etc), “supplements” like bee pollen, spirulina, ground linseed etc
  • If you are beginning, begin with mild greens and add little by little.

  • Since you are blending up all this goodness, make it a large one, yea, even super-size. Like “SuperSize”, only…NOT….

  • MUST be delicious- there is no point in drinking something you don’t enjoy or you will never continue.

  • Try drinking one first thing in the morning, and then wait 30 minutes to see if you still want breakfast? You may not need it…

  • Whatever you believe about breakfast being “the most important meal of the day”-what is true is that a clean green breakfast drink sets the tone for better food choices mid-morning and later on.
  • These are an utterly fabulous weight loss shake, especially if you add some healthy proteins. (I am not qualified to advise on weight loss- did everyone get that? But just so you know, these are fruits and greens, people, and I don’t think you can go too wrong on that….)
So- back to Noemi.
She started a “Green Smoothies” group on Facebook (it’s an English/Spanish group) and added all her friends and I think, at first everyone was a bit “Eh??” (like my husband was when he first saw me doing it- “You are WEIRD!” – said kindly, by the way 🙂  …As an aside, he went from “What on EARTH?” to….”Let me try…not bad!” to……”If there’s any spare I’ll have it”  to…….”Please could you make a massive goblet and let’s all drink some every day” to……”No green smoothie today?? Quick, we need to go shopping!!”)
On the Facebook group there was even a comment early on of “Erm- excuse me, but in Spain, we know how to eat, I know Americans eat terribly, but we don’t need all that….
But now, she has dozens of people blending up green leaves, yea, even loving leaves (fancy that!)  and there are plenty of positive reports on personal benefits, and how it is spilling over into improving other eating habits….in short- a Revolution is happening, friends.
Have you started drinking your greens yet??

In the current absence of inspiration…

I find comfort- and hope you do too- in the words of this tenacious little tangerine.  Wishing you a wonderful day…..

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