Food hacks

Quick, easy and cheap low sugar snacks

Hi guys, how is your week going?  I’ve been in the healthy eating flow recently and following off the back of my post here on easy ways to reduce your sugar intake I thought I’d share some examples of smart swaps you can make when you’re stuck for a snack and don’t know what to eat.

There are loads of quick and easy options (whether you DIY it or buy them from a shop) to avoid eating on junky sugary foods that will make you feel crappy in the short term.

I’m going to do a post shortly on where sugar hides in food, to help you avoid falling in to the sugar traps because it’s so easy.  I consider myself quite clued up on the subject but the other day I was in a rush and picked up a ‘protein’ yoghurt without reading the label properly and low and behold it had over four teaspoons of sugar in it.  Total fail on my part. 

So if you’re interested in some quick, easy and cheap snack options which will fill you up and stop your sugar cravings read on…

Continue reading “Quick, easy and cheap low sugar snacks”

Food hacks

Simple ways to reduce your sugar intake

So I think we can agree that we all know we should be reducing the amount of sugar* we are consuming, yes?  Yes.  But how to do this in reality can sometimes be confusing and end up in you eating more sugar than intended, which defeats the object and can be morally deflating.

If you’re trying to cut down on your sugar consumption but don’t know how, let me give you a few pointers on some simple swaps you can make which will help to cut your sugar load but with minimal difference to your day to day eating habits or your wallet.

*Before I begin, let me clarify what I mean when I say sugar.  Our bodies need sugar for energy.  Glucose is our main energy source and we get this from the foods we eat (such as fruits and vegetables) and there are other types of sugars we consume found naturally in foods (like lactose from dairy).  This is completely normal and natural and I’m not suggesting we need to cut down on consuming these kinds of foods.

What I’m talking about are the artificially processed or added the sugars that are sneaked in to foods where they have no place to be – like in mayonnaise, or pasta sauces or even in yoghurts.  These are the kinds of sugars we sometimes don’t even know that we are eating but are having a detrimental effect on our health because of the volumes we consume them in, or the things we’ve traditionally have been told are healthy (and therefore we can consume in abundance) which in reality are ok on occasion or smaller quantities but mindful consumption of these is advised e.g. fruit juice.

1. Cut out ‘low fat’ versions of foods

Contrary to their promise of being better for you, low fat versions of products are actually stuffed full of sugar and other junky ingredients.  When companies remove the fat content they have to replace the taste and texture with something to make the food palatable again and so what do they use to fill this void? Sugar!  Low fat flavoured yoghurts are one of the best examples of this:

As you can see from the above, just one pot of these contains 19.8g of sugar (see: ‘carbohydrate, of which sugars’).  That’s 4.9 teaspoons! By switching to plain full fat yoghurt you’ll instantly save on sugar.  Natural yoghurt contains some sugar (lactose) but it should only work out about 4.7g/ 100g of yoghurt.  Always check the label – anything over that is added sugar and should be treated with caution.  The great thing about natural yoghurt (apart from all the great bacteria) is that it is infinitely customisable and you can get creative with toppings such as berries or low sugar granola or even dark chocolate (because you’ve made your sugar saving and a square or two of dark chocolate won’t kill you  – I’m talking about moderation).  By eating the full fat version you’ll feel fuller for longer and it will taste delicious.  I promise you.  We need to stop being so scared of fat as a nation (which is not carte blanche to go and east a stick of butter a day) but the ‘low fat’ label needs to be recognised for what it is – junk food in other disguise.  If you are dairy intolerant coconut yoghurt is great alternative but again, go for the naturally unflavoured options.

2. Reduce the amount of fruit juice you are drinking

I know, I know.  What could be more healthy than a glass of OJ in the morning?  Unfortunately there’s the same amount of sugar in a glass of apple or orange juice as there is in a can of Cola.  ‘But it’s natural sugar!’ I hear you cry.  The thing is, on a basic chemical level our bodies don’t distinguish between ‘natural’ sugar or ‘processed’ sugar because they all look the same, so our bodies treat them the same.  When we eat the whole of the fruit it also contains lots of good stuff (like fibre) which prevents our bodies from going crazy on the sugar.  But when we juice fruits we are essentially just extracting the sugar and leaving all the good stuff behind.  Which means unfortunately that a glass of juice isn’t all that healthy.  I’m not saying don’t ever drink fruit juice again – I certainly still do – but make it an occasional glass of fruit juice or even better try diluting it with water (I prefer sparkling) which also has the added bonus of making a carton stretch further (and you know I love getting value for money out of my food).  Seeing fruit juice as an occasional rather than a daily ritual can help to dramatically cut down on sugar.

3. Reduce the amount of dried fruit you are eating

Following on from the above, another easy way to reduce sugar consumption is swapping out your dried fruit for fresh.  When fruit is dehydrated (the water is removed) the sugar levels are sent rocketing.  Those super sweet raisins in your muesli aren’t the best idea first thing as they’ll give you the initial sugar spike and then leave you craving more later in the day.  And portion wise, I can easily eat a whole bag of dried apricots but if I tried to eat the equivalent amount of fresh fruit and I would struggle.  Dried fruit is a great little treat now and again but to mitigate the sugar crash I try to eat it only occasionally and combine it with good fats or protein to help slow down the sugar spike e.g. dried apricots and some yoghurt or nut butter.

dried-fruit-700028_1280.jpg

4. Swap your snacks (‘cereal bars’ for hummus, veg, cheese etc.)

I’m planning on doing a whole post about this but a good one is to swap your sugary snack for a savoury one.  Instead of cereal bars (yep, even the vegan, wholefood ones made from dried dates) try some hummus and carrots, or a block of cheese, or a handful of nuts with an apple, or some crackers and smoked salmon.  There are lots of yummy savoury options which won’t send your sugar levels in to the stratosphere. My top tip is to be creative – I love sweet potato wedges (roasted and left to go cold) dunked in to really garlicky hummus.  I can highly recommend that one.

5. Upgrade your chocolate

Life is too short to go without chocolate.  You’ll never hear me argue in favour of completely eliminating chocolate from our diets but I do think we can be smarter about the type of chocolate we eat.  The bog standard or cheaper stuff we can buy in the supermarkets doesn’t contain a high cocoa percentage and is filled full of extra junky ingredients such as vegetable oils, sugar alcohols, and emulsifiers such as E442 or E476.  By swapping to better quality chocolate you’ll still get your chocolate fix but with some added benefits: dark chocolate contains essential minerals that we need like iron, magnesium, calcium and it is full of antioxidants (which helps to repair cell damage).  Again, this doesn’t mean eating a whole bar a day but now and again by swapping out your regular chocolate fix you’ll be doing your insulin levels a favour.  I try to choose 75% cocoa level or above (I’ve even tried 100% which I like but it isn’t for everyone), and places like Hotel Chocolat are great for finding darker chocolates without compromising on the fun element or if these are too pricey I’ve noticed that Aldi and Lidl so a range of over 75% cocoa chocolate which come in at under £1.50 for 125g bars which is pretty affordable. 

Ok guys, that’s my top five tips for reducing your sugar consumption.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this and I you have any smart tips you like to use let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

Nutrition

Easy ways to look after your gut health

As you guys know, the health and wellbeing sector is always going through different phases trying to find the latest superfood we should be eating for miraculous results to our health.  Now, I don’t buy in to the ‘one food to cure them all’ fads but I do believe in putting as much goodness in to our bodies as possible.  This means eating a wide range of fruits and veggies as standard but it also means taking care of our bodies in other ways too.

One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to look after our guts and our gut health.  I know that gut health and the word probiotics are everywhere at the moment but unlike a lot of the fads out there (birch water I’m looking at you), there is actually something in this. 

Continue reading “Easy ways to look after your gut health”

Favourites

Non-foodie favourites – July

Hi friends,

It’s been a strange couple of weeks.  I’ve been busy with work and studying which meant that as my free time decreased I sort of lost my motivation for social media, blogging and being honest there’s not been a whole load of cooking going on either.  So in my time away I’ve been enjoying a whole host of non-foodie things that I thought I’d share with you as they’ve definitely kept me motivated and happy these past couple of weeks.

Books

With the time I’ve saved being off social media I’ve been making inroads in to some really exciting books.  First on the list has been the wonderful work of Brené Brown.  I was introduced to the magic of Brené by my good friend Siobhan and I am not over stating it when I say it has knocked my bloody socks off.  I’m currently reading The Gifts of Imperfection and for someone who thought she had her shit together, well this book has definitely turned a few ideas on their head (for the better, I hasten to add).

This book hasn’t been the easiest of reading but I’m learning a lot about myself that I know is going to help me in the long term.   I’d really recommend this to anyone who struggles with perfectionist, feelings of inadequacy or even imposter syndrome.  Studying nutrition is a huge passion for me but I sometimes feel a little overwhelmed by the amazing people already working in that field which makes me question whether there’s room for me.  This book has certainly been helping with the de-motivated days.  Especially a good one for those of you who aren’t in to ‘self help’ books.

In addition to Brené’s work, also on my radar has been Nourish and Glow by Amelia Freer.  I have Amelia’s first book (although not her second) and would highly recommend either of them.  Amelia is a qualified Nutritional Therapist (fun fact: Amelia trained at the same place I am studying at, and she was a big influence in my decision to undertake my change career).  What I love about her books is that she provides sensible healthy eating advice without being  dry and preachy.  She’s all about incorporating the principles of eating well every day to nourish your body so you feel the best possible version of you but without repeating the same ‘eat more veggies, eat less junk’ that we often hear over and over again.  If you want a good introduction into nutrition and the principles behind diet improvement her books are a good place to start.

Podcasts

If you’re not already in to the podcast game then you’re seriously missing out.  First off, they’re FREE.  Yep, that’s right.  Free.  Totally free entertainment.  There are so, so many I enjoy but there’s nothing like a good episode of something on the foodie/ wellbeing arena to perk me up. 

My current favourite is the Butter Your Life podcast.  Kari is a lawyer turned wellbeing investigator who has been reviewing health and wellbeing topics ranging from the importance of sleep to why bread and cake should be part of your life.  I love that the podcasts cover topics I’m interested in but in a credible and accessible way.  There’s no advocating of faddy diets or pushing certain products, just interesting conversations with genuinely knowledgeable people who are specialists in their area.  I can usually be found listening to these on the commute or first thing in the morning whilst I’m getting ready to leave for work.

Other podcasts of note this month have included the BBC Food Programme (I highly recommend the recent episode on Tumeric, as there’s such an interesting discussion going on about whether the claims about it being the miracle anti-cancer spice have any scientific basis), The Badass Women’s Hour (seriously good topical chat from three inspiring women that will get you thinking) and The Guilty Feminist Podcast (exploring feminism in an accessible and realistic way.  It’s worth it for the ‘I’m a feminist BUT’ section at the start alone).

Blogs

Being off my own social media channels recently has given me an opportunity to catch up on some of my favourite blogs and vlogs.  Now, I should be totally transparent and say that one of my triggers for feeling shit about myself is when I spend too much time comparing myself to others on social media but I found that by focusing on only a couple of bloggers within the health and wellbeing sector who differ to me and focus not just fitness or not just nutrition but a balanced approach to wellness has helped me to feel excited and energised with minimal ‘I’m a loser’ feeling.

In particular this month I’ve been enjoying The Food Medic from Dr Hazel Wallace who is a junior doctor and qualified personal trainer with a special interest in nutrition. Trust me when I say that Hazel knows her stuff.  Her site is packed with useful information and she’s done a great de-bunking article here about the recent scares over coconut oil that you may have read about in the media.  I recently bought her book and can highly recommend it if you want a comprehensive mix of nutrition, recipes and fitness.  I’ve already tried out her tandoori chickpea and courgette burgers and her summery feta, mint, tomato and lentil salad which have both been cheap, quick to make and really tasty.  No Instagram pics of these though because well, I ate them all too quickly.

I’ve also been enjoying catching up with Zanna Van Dijk’s blog and vlogs recently.  Zanna is a qualified personal trainer and has started to branch in to mindfulness and conscious living in addition to her fitness posts.  Zanna recently launched the ‘Conscious Living Crew’ Facebook Group which I’ve joined where currently there’s about 2000 of us sharing tips and tricks for more ethical and sustainable living.  It’s a really supportive group that I highly recommend.  I’ve not been a particularly active member of the group as yet but there’s been so many interesting discussions that a quick dip in now and again has brightened the day.

In addition to the Facebook Group I’ve been watching Zanna’s vlogs which has massively cheered me up as she has such a sunny, down to earth style it makes you feel like you’re catching up with a mate rather than it being another impossible standard to compare myself to.  I’ve met Zanna in real life and she is exactly as she appears in her vlogs – genuine and warm.

Exercise

I’m not the best at exercising consistently but when I do I never regret it.  One of the most enjoyable things I’ve found I’ve managed to stick consistently to is a regular yoga practice.  I’ve not managed to get out to classes as much as I would have liked (and haven’t really had the motivation) but the routines on the Yoga with Adriene channel has been great because I can practice them at anytime, anywhere and without any pressure.

I’ve also been enjoying the odd HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) session again.  I’ve had a pretty sore back the past few weeks so, so I’m not going to punish myself for another thing I haven’t managed to do yet.  Baby steps and all that but i have managed the odd Body Coach work out.

Meditation

If I’m bad at committing to regular exercise then I’m worse at a regular meditation practice.  In the past I have tried to use various meditations on youtube and via the Headspace App but it didn’t seem to click for me. I’ve recently discovered the Insight Timer App (free) and it’s changed my life for the better.  I know the idea of meditation puts some people off but please don’t dismiss it.  Even finding even 5 minutes a day to quiet your mind can make you feel loads better.  And there are a myriad of health benefits to mediation including improving your mood and reducing stress levels.  There have even been claims that it can improve the connections in the brain.  you can read about it here and make up your own mind but personally I’ve found it a real help during this busy period.


I’ve been turning to the app for guided meditations once a day, usually when I’m feeling overwhelmed or stressed, and it genuinely has made a difference.  I’m much calmer and less anxious immediately after the session but I’m also feeling much better in myself throughout the whole week.  Meditation and mindfulness really is for everyone and there will be a way you can fit some form of it in to your day, you just need to find what works for you.

And that’s it.  A few simple things I’m enjoying this month and not a veg box in sight! Service as usual will resume shortly so bear with me.  I’ve a couple of highly exciting chemistry exams and an essay to submit by Friday and then I’m all yours guys.

Thanks for reading.  I’m always looking for new books, podcasts or blogger recommendations so please do leave any suggestions in the comments below and let me know if there is anything you think I need to try.  Catch you on Wednesday…

Money saving

A healthy shopping list

One of the most common things I hear from friends, colleagues and family who tell me they struggle with eating healthier is that they don’t know what foods to buy. They are comfortable following a recipe and buying the ingredients required but when it comes to a general food shop for store cupboard staples and a general ‘healthy shop’ they struggle.  So I thought a post on what I would buy from a supermarket and some ideas for healthy meal options from that shopping list might be helpful.

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Recipes

The easiest (healthy) icecream

Chances are if you are in to your healthy eating then you’ll have heard of ‘nicecream’ before.  However, judging by the reaction I received to my recent picture on Instagram of my bowl of nicecream I thought it was worthwhile doing a post on it:  what it is, how you make it and suggestions on what to serve it with.

For the uninitiated ‘nicecream’ is the term people use to describe this faux-ice cream which is made out of frozen bananas.  It tastes and has the same texture of icecream without the dodgy ingredients you’d usually get with the shop bought stuff.  Before we go any further let me reassure you, it’s not one of those healthy swaps where it doesn’t quite match up to the original but you convince yourself to like it anyway because you know it’s healthy.  This stuff delivers the goods. I’ve even tried it on the non healthy eaters in my life and they loved it.

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Career journey

Study update – one month in

Today’s post was going to be all about ‘how to make your veg box stretch further’ but although I’d already drafted the post, there was something holding me back from putting it up this week.  I know it fits nicely in to the series I’ve been doing on meal prepping and planning recently but for some reason I couldn’t get the idea for this post out of my head.  So the veg box post will go up next week instead and today I’m going to share with you some reflections about how my first month of studying has gone – the things that went well, the things I need to improve upon and the surprising lessons I’ve learnt about myself in the process.

I’ll admit that I really didn’t think starting this course would be that big a deal because I’ve three years of studying ahead of me, so how much could possibly change in a month?  Well, I’m happy to say quite a lot.

Continue reading “Study update – one month in”

Food hacks

Quick and easy food options for when you have no packed lunch

Following on from Sunday’s meal planning post I began thinking about those days where you haven’t had time to cook anything beforehand but still want to eat well at lunch.  I’m pretty good with bringing in my own food 99% of the time (as I find it’s easier, healthier and saves me a bucket load of cash throughout the month) but there are times when meal planning doesn’t quite go, well, to plan.

I’ve found it’s usually days when either I haven’t had time to bring in lunch; my lunch plans fell through and I need to unexpectedly buy something; or I made lunch and forgot to pick it up so it’s sat on the kitchen counter at home going warm (which happens more than I would like to admit) when I’m in need of something quick, easy and that I will actually want to eat. Hands up who has ever made or bought a lunch and then ate something completely different because you didn’t fancy it?  Yeah, me too.

It is on these days that I re-visit my go-to list (below) which I have saved on my phone so that I don’t even have to think about it, I can just toddle on down to the shop and pull together a quick and healthy lunch option.

Continue reading “Quick and easy food options for when you have no packed lunch”

Money saving

Meal planning 101

This week I’ve had a lot of conversations about meal planning.  I’d love to say it’s off the back of last week’s post about food prep but I think it’s just coincidence.  Although, one of my Instagram posts prompted a request for a meal plan from a family member so who knows?

As with the food prep idea, once I got talking to people about meal planning I realised that not everyone was doing it and the main reasons seem to be either confusion, intimidation or they thought it would take too much work.

Well, worry no more friends.  I am here to show you that just like food prep, meal planning is quick, easy and will make your life infinitely better.  By the time I’ve returned home from a full-on day of work in London unless my meals are planned I don’t have the energy to think about eating something vaguely healthy.  Without a meal plan I would end up eating terribly and spending far too much money.  Or I’d be in the supermarket every night and quite frankly, I have better things to do with my time.  Like Netflix. And wine.

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Money saving

Foods you don’t need to waste money on buying

As you know by now, I’m a stickler for not wasting anything, whether that’s food or money.  Which is why I quickly discovered that especially when you’re on a budget there are some things you really don’t need to spend money on. I’m talking about pestos, sauces, soups and condiments.  The kinds of things that we’ve been told are complicated and too much hassle to make yourself, when in reality the opposite is true.  Most of these things are actually more expensive to buy and usually contain some dodgy ingredients that you’re better off avoiding (sugar in mayonnaise I’m looking at you).

I’m hoping to convince you that by making some simple swaps in your diet you can save a few £££ and also enjoy some quick, healthy versions of your favourite foods.  It’s really not as hard as you might think, or have been told.

Continue reading “Foods you don’t need to waste money on buying”