Monday, 2 November 2015

Recipe: Five a Day Tagine from BBC Good Food

Here is the recipe for this delish dinner :)

This hearty tagine is the definition of warmth and comfort and it’s pretty healthy too! It gives you that satisfying knowledge that what you are eating is good: good for the senses, good for the body and good for the mind. The balance of sweet and spicy flavours make it a strong candidate for a family favourite and it’s easy to make too.

I love colour in my food and I often vary the vegetables that I use in this recipe. Variety in colour is great for your health as it provides your body with lots of different vitamins and minerals which are all needed for different functions. Generally speaking, the less you cook your veg the more nutrients you retain, therefore roasting the veg in oil as this recipe does may not be the healthiest in the world but I think it is still up there in the nutrition value on the whole.
Whilst I understand that the vegetarian nature of this dish may put some people off, the flavours are so rich that I don’t think meat would add anything to it in terms of taste. I think that going veggie for one or two meals a week can be a great thing for good health, the environment and for the bank account. However, if you prefer to have meat, I reckon that some lamb would go brilliantly for a more decadent meal.

Its vegetarian nature and the lack of beans or pulses does mean that this recipe may lack in protein slightly. However, for one meal of the week I don’t feel that this is a tragedy - in our country we are often prone to over eating on protein anyway.

The best thing about this dish is that it stimulates all your senses: it looks vibrant and hearty, smells delicious, sounds beautiful (especially when you add the tomatoes to the hot pan), feels great (the preparing of vegetables gives you a sense of creating and preparing something wholesome), and it tastes YUMMY! You can vary the spices to make it as sweet or spicy as you like but I think that the suggestions provided are pretty spot on. Perfect for a dark and blustery Autumnal night!


Friday, 21 August 2015

Feeling the strain

Sometimes it can seem as though you are struggling to keep up with the demands that life brings you. You begin to notice physical symptoms of tiredness as well as mental ones and the more you try to keep going the worse they get.

Often, we try to suppress these symptoms, dismiss them and ignore them. Surely, they are a sign of weakness, a sign that we are unable to cope, a sign that we are falling short of the expectations from the rest of the world around us as well as our own expectations.

The truth is though, we feel these symptoms for a reason. The body is a very clever thing and it tells us when we need to give it some attention. Ignoring the signs it is telling us will only make it shout louder.

The thing is, the actual art of listening to your body is a lot easier said than done. How do you know whether a run is one thing to many for your body to deal with or a great way to refresh it? There are deadlines to contend with, family commitments, social occasions, people relying on you. With all these conflicting thoughts buzzing around your head how can you work it out?

This morning I was reading a great book called ‘Savor’ by Shauna Niequist. In today’s section she was talking about the need for ‘permission to slow down, to say no, to admit my fragility and exhaustion’. I think it’s important to realise that this ability to slow down is an actual necessity. Our body and mind needs to recoup, re-energise and re-connect.

When planning a training programme it is vital to include periods of rest where the body has the chance to recover from the stress it has been under. It is also the time where adaptation of the body occurs and the changes and improvements that you have been working so hard for take place. Your rest periods give the body the chance to recover, grow, strengthen and prepare for the next work phase ahead, playing an important role in injury prevention.

It is not a failing to be feeling the need for some time out; it is an important part of life. It is not only beneficial for you; it is beneficial to those around you. Taking the pressure off yourself, also takes the pressure off of those who may also be feeling overwhelmed by the pressure to attain such high standards. It also enables you to have more energy to give out to people.

In today’s section, Shauna Niequist used the verse; ‘Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.’ Ecclesiastes 4:6 

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Food Anxiety

just be yourself // mandy hale
Found on Pinterest
Anxiety towards my diet has always been an issue in my life and I don’t think that I am the only one. It is so easy to fall into the trap of believing what can only be described as lies about yourself and about your body image. On countless occasions I have found myself completely consumed by the pressure to reach a perfect body, a perfect healthy lifestyle, a perfect life.

But, life is not perfect. It is not neat and tidy. It is not a failing to find yourself feeling overwhelmed, lost, bored or unhappy. We do not live in a perfect world and we are not perfect. I don’t think that I will ever reach my idea of my ‘perfect body’, it is simply not attainable.

However, this is not a reason to simply not care about what I put into my body or how I treat it. I know that my body needs a range of nutrients each as important as each other, each with a special job to do in order for it to function well. I know that my body works at its best and my overall wellbeing is at its best within healthy ranges of weight, stress, exercise and so on. I have been given my body, which is unique, for life and I feel that it is only right for me to look after it.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20: your body matters!
Found on Pinterest
In a way anxiety and worry itself has the potential to be more unhealthy than the richest, yummiest, indulgence you can think of. It can take over until it is all you can think about. It is moments like these that I have to remind myself that there is so much more to life than this, than what I look like, than what I feel like.

It is when you can accept yourself as okay or good enough as you are right this minute whatever shape or size you are, whatever is going on in your life at the moment that the pressure is relieved. The belief that you are fine just as you are enables you to look at things with a brand new perspective. You can look outwards towards other people, you can live a healthy lifestyle that is not driven by fear or selfish ambition but by the knowledge that it is a good thing to be doing and it will have a positive effect on those around you as well as yourself in mind, body and soul.

There will be ups and downs and times where you feel as though you are battling against this anxiety and losing the fight but then you will find release when you stop to remind yourself of the truth. The truth that being a certain size, shape or physique does not have the power to make you a better person or make people love you more. Accepting your size, shape or physique has the power to free you from the unrelenting pressure of striving for perfection.

So with this new found freedom I think that it is time to embrace the body which we have been given. Treat it well and look after it, not abuse it. Let’s enjoy food, enjoy exercise and enjoy looking after ourselves.

I will leave you with some beauty tips from the stunning Audrey Hepburn:

TRUE Beauty tips from audrey hepburn
Found on Pinterest
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?  (Matthew 6:25-26)
Found on Pinterest


Tuesday, 30 June 2015

When life gets in the way...

People often say that they need to have a pause from their diet or programme because ‘life just gets in the way’. I include myself in this. It often seems as though the ups and downs life throws at us take over and our diet is just one thing too many to think about.

June has turned out to be a pretty hectic month for me. It has been easy to begin to feel swallowed up by job interviews and offers, increased work hours, visitors and decisions to make. Amidst all of this it has been hard to train to my optimum and eat as healthy as I would have liked. I have started to say to myself, ‘well that’s just life, it gets in the way’.

However, it then occurred to me that the above phrase could actually go the other way round. Could my diet or my programme or my general attitude towards healthy living be getting in the way of life?
Life is full of little bumps and dips, smacking great mountains to climb and peaks to reach. Life is ever moving and changing; it goes in seasons of great joys to heart breaking pain to many places in-between. The way we live our life is affected by these highs and lows in many ways. It’s natural for us to fluctuate in our lifestyles in correspondence to whatever comes our way.

Sometimes though, I forget this. I struggle and strive towards attaining an impossible ambition of a perfectly healthy lifestyle when really I need to focus on other things, more important things. My attention becomes focused on my achievements and my failings, bringing more judgement into my view. The judgement clouds my vision until all that I can see is pressure and selfish ambition. My family, boyfriend and friends have to wait until I can attain this perfect healthy lifestyle.

It is then that I give myself a good shake and delve deep into my faith to part the clouds in front of my eyes and look at what is around me. There are job interviews and offers, increased work hours, visitors and decisions to make. But, there is also a liberating truth and I have so many things that can help me to not feel so swallowed up by these things.

Diet and exercise turns out to be one of these weapons I can use to help. Going running provides me with space to collect my thoughts and a hard workout at the gym help s me to burn off some nervous energy. A meal with a close friend provides me with yummy comfort food and laughter to make me feel at home and at rest. A jam doughnut brought back from work over a cup of tea with my parents in the garden gives me a sugary burst of delicious energy after a long day. A healthy meal cooked by my Mum provides me with the nutrients my body needs to keep going during this stressful and busy time.

We can use food and exercise to socialise, nourish the body and burn off physical and mental energy to live life to the full. It is a weapon and a powerful one at that which can be used to help but can also have the potential to hinder. We just need to keep our eyes fixed on our prize we are living for.
Homemade chocolate brownies with strawberries and ice cream for Father's day 

A delicious and very healthy prawn curry - one of my Mum's specialties 

A lovely walk in the rain on the beach

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

10 Ways to increase you activity levels without increasing the pressure on your diary!

It is often hard to put best intentions of ‘getting fitter’ or ‘doing more exercise’ into practice. There are many barriers in daily life which can hinder us in getting the exercise or activity we would like. These could be money shortages, time constraints, or friend and family commitments, just to list a few.

Here are ten ideas that may help to increase your activity levels without adding extra commitment or pressure to your daily life; you may already be doing them:

1.       Using the stairs instead of the escalators or lifts
2.       Walking or cycling short distances instead of taking the car
3.       Getting off the bus a stop before your normal one
4.       Going for a short walk in your day if you can fit it in (for example, in your lunch break or when you get home)
5.       If you have children who go to classes after school you could have a short workout or walk while they are there
6.       When it’s raining and cold outside it can be hard to do as much activity – fitness and dance video games can be a really good way to get competitive and active with friends and family as well as on your own
7.       Parking higher up in the car park – sometimes it’s cheaper too - bonus!
8.       Playing music and having a little boogie when making the dinner!
9.       Gardening and housework are great forms of activity – this might make hoovering and weeding seem a little more appealing if there’s a spare ten minutes in your day… but then again it might not…
10.   Performing simple exercises that don’t need much space or any equipment can be relatively easy to slip into your routine. Things like running up and down the stairs 10 times consecutively or doing step ups on them is a great way to get your heart pumping and exercises such as abdominal curls and back raises can be alternated daily as you get out of bed in the morning.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Recipe: Thai Green Fish Curry

Recipe: Thai Green Fish Curry

This is a great recipe for a quick and nutritious dinner. My sister first introduced me to this recipe, in her version she used chicken, however I use a fish pie mix. At home, we generally have bread with it as it seems to work well with the thin curry sauce. Pictured below is a Low GI Multiseed Loaf which is great for slow releasing energy and has not been highly processed.

It is such a useful recipe as you can throw it together in 30mins and can use up any vegetables you need to. Using fish is great as it will count towards one of your two portions of fish a week. Coconut milk can be very beneficial in the diet too, however it is relatively high in saturated fat and it is best to have in moderation. I love using lots of different colours when cooking as it looks good and supplies you with a great range of vitamins and minerals.

This is a great recipe to get creative with and you can adjust it to your preferences really easily.

To make it you will need:
(Serves 4)
Half an onion (Red onion works well too)
A fish pie mix selection
A can of light coconut milk
A couple of sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped (ordinary potatoes work well too)
A selection of vegetables chopped into chunks, most work well but I like to use a selection of peppers, peas, sugar snap peas and spring onion (you can save some to make a nice garnish)
A heaped desert spoon of thai green curry paste (or just add to taste)
A table spoon of low fat cream cheese

1.       Soften the onion in a saucepan. To do this I used a 1kcal spray cooking oil. However, to reduce the fat used, microwaving them a little is always a good idea.
2.       Add the can of coconut milk and cook on a medium heat.
3.       Add the fish pie mix and bring to a gentle simmer.
4.       Add the potatoes.
5.       Add the vegetables according to cooking times.
6.       Once all the vegetables are in, add the curry paste according to taste and the cheese. The low fat cheese. A spritz of lime would work well to cut into the flavour and give a little zest!
7.       Serve with warm bread and enjoy!

To find out more about Coconut Milk and the benefits associated with it in moderation in the diet follow this link to an article on the BBC Good Food website.

To find out more about why fish in the diet is so important click here to view helpful guidance on the NHS Livewell website.

Happy healthy, wholesome eating everyone.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Motivation – Or lack of…

When it comes to fitness classes or sessions or indeed any recreational activity, it seems that periods of lack of motivation are inevitable. Well, they are in my case at any rate!

I often find myself getting increasingly despondent at the thought that I simply don’t want to go for a session – for whatever reason that may be. I get bogged down in the ‘failure’ kind of thoughts, because, well, ‘I should go and get some exercise’ or ‘I should go to dance – I’m committed’.

On many occasions, I have found that once there (or maybe once I’ve completed the said session) I forget about how I’m feeling. However, on other occasions I am perfectly able to hold my hands up high and say that truthfully, I did not enjoy all those Burpees and I actually did not find that Grande Batemon exercise challenging in a fun way! No, ‘pushing my limits’ was not ‘fun’ in the slightest.
It is these sessions which I find hard to battle with. If I’m not careful, I let these ‘not so fun’ sessions affect my other sessions.

I could just not go, enjoy a nice relaxing evening in front of the telly. I could go, just force myself to try extra hard. Both these ideas are good ones on different occasions, sometimes I think I could really benefit from a chilled out evening and yet I don’t want to let people down when I am actually perfectly capable of going.

However, I still get that guilty feeling, that sense of despondency that I’m not enjoying something that, surely, I should be enjoying!

Recently, I’ve been trying to learn to let things go a lot more. I think on those challenging days it might help to ask myself - does it matter that last week I could press twice this weight!? Or run for twice as long or fast?

Obviously, progression is good and motivating when we achieve any goals or reach any targets. But, perhaps on these days being happy training at what our body feels up to would be a good idea. A nice easy session, with no goals, no plan; complete freedom to exercise how our body wants to and for how long. Then, with any luck, the enjoyment might return along with those lovely chappies called endorphins and hopefully, in my next session I might be able to ‘pump iron’ as it very much were.