The IQS 8wp week 3 roundup

Hi friends,

How has your week been?  This week has been a busy one work-wise but I’m feeling pretty good as all my food has been taken care of so I’ve not needed to eat junk or rely on pre packaged food to get me through the week – and that feels pretty great (plus my bank balance is looking much healthier than usual towards the end of the month).

So, I’m into week three, there’s still no sugar (including fruit) but I have to confess there have been a couple of times when I’ve deviated off plan and so I think I’m setting myself up for some harder sugar withdrawals next week if I don’t nip it in the bud.  Full disclosure I had a slice of chocolate vegan cake that someone had baked at work and a chocolate eclair because someone was leaving at work and there may have been red wine almost every night this week…

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A simple festive soup recipe

Hi everyone,

For today’s ‘surviving the festive season’ post I’m sharing with you my go-to winter soup recipe which comes on so handy when you need something healthy, filling and easy during this crazy time of year.

I make batches of this soup and freeze them so that if unexpected guests arrive you’ve always got something healthy to serve them. Or if you come home after a long day of work or festive shopping you can simply heat this up and in under 5 minutes you’ve got something hot and nutritious to eat.

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Sweet treats that won’t leave you feeling sour

Hi everyone,

In the final post of my sugar mini-series we are on to the good stuff: the sweet eats.  So far we’ve covered the different types of sugars, how to reduce your intake, how to deal with your cravings and finally (finally!) we’re on to the post you’ve all been waiting for: the desserts.

Now this is not me giving saying it’s ok to go and eat as much sugar as you want, because that’s never going to happen.  Today’s post is a reminder that it is possible to eat sweet things occasionally as long as it’s not all the time and when it’s a mindful choice – not a binge off the back of a sugar craving.

The great thing about these recipes are that they are all low sugar (all mostly low fructose which is even better) and can be knocked up quickly, in batches and kept in the fridge or freezer for when you feel like a treat.

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Sugar masterclass part 2: processed and refined sugars

Hi everyone,

Following on from the first post in my sugar masterclass series last week, this week we are talking about refined sugars i.e. those sugars that are processed (whether naturally occurring or not).  These are the kinds of sugars that have seen a huge rise in popularity recently and you may or may not have heard of all or most of them but I can guarantee you’ve probably eaten most of them (whether knowingly or not).

I’ll do a quick post on sugar alcohols and alternative sweeteners such as Maltodexrose and Aspartame (sound scary but they’re not once you break it down.  They’re just bad for your health) on Wednesday, along with a ‘how sweet are these’ scale to help you gauge an idea of how much sugar we are really eating but for now let’s get started on the most common refined or processed sugars you may encounter on a daily basis.

In alphabetical order, here we go…

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Food hacks, Tips and tricks

Falling off the wagon

If you’re anything like me then your eating will go in cycles which range from the extremely ‘good’ i.e. lots of fresh fruit, veggies, and the like versus the extremely ‘bad’ which consists of burgers and fries, pizza and ice cream on an almost daily rotation.  Most of the time I’m ok but I’ve noticed that recently I’ve started to let my good habits slip and I don’t feel too great for it.

Now you know I’m all about balance.  I firmly believe that life is too short to deprive ourselves and I’m completely against the idea of cutting out entire foods or food groups (unless it’s for a specific reason like an intolerance). You’ll never hear me say ‘never eat desert again’ and I’m certainly still an advocate for a really great burger; so what happens when you can’t seem to master the art of moderation?

Well, today I wanted to talk about just that – falling off the wagon and what you can do to get back on.

Ok, so your healthy eating regime has slipped and you’re starting to feel like sh*t?  That’s ok, you’re human & it’s not the end of the world. I’ve been there too. In fact, I’m just coming out of one of those unhealthy eating cycles recently (which prompted me to write this post).  It’s almost like I have eaten so much rubbish recently that my body cries out for veggies. Sound familiar?  Yeah, I hear you.

Now I don’t know about you but I find the hardest thing is trying to crawl my way out of the unhealthy cycle.  Because the more rubbish you eat, the more you want it.  I even start to consider chocolate for breakfast – no, seriously I do.

I’ve started to notice though, each time I slip back into the bad habits there are always a number of things I come back to which help me to recalibrate and get back on track until one day, I chose salad over fries and just like that the healthy eating is back on the up.

First off I go easy on myself.  I know this sounds cheesy but having that initial ‘I recognise that my diet isn’t where I want it to be but I’m going to make an effort to make better choices’ conversation with myself helps to set an intention and genuinely makes me think twice the next time I reach for food.  Let me be clear, it doesn’t always stop me but when I go in for the bad stuff it’s then a conscious choice rather than a mindless nose dive into the biscuit tin.  Try it, see if the little pep talk doesn’t shift your point of view even ever so slightly.

Second up: Moderation, moderation, moderation.  Easy to say but harder to do.  To try and get back into balance I start off really small.  Acknowledging that it’s going to take a week or so to get back into a better place with food and making one small change per day makes it so much more achievable.  Because if you go fully restrictive and ban all sugar, caffeine, alcohol and unhealthy food in one go you’ll last all of a day before you’re miserable and go heading for the first kebab you can find.  

The more ‘virtuous’ I try to be the least likely I am to stick to it.  It’s better to try and cut out one extra glass of wine that week, or stop yourself from having one less doughnut that day than banning everything in one day.  Being gentle and kind to yourself in this way is much more effective and will lead to long term moderation overall.  Plus, it’s easier to tell yourself you’re going to eat one less set of biscuits with your tea rather than ‘I MUST eat at least 9 portions of veggies today and NO biscuits, NO treats and NO wine’. That’s just a recipe for no fun.

Next up is an easy one: out of sight, out of mind.  I find that if I buy rubbish food and it’s in the house, even if I’m not hungry I’ll gravitate towards it like I’m caught in a trackter beam.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s kettle chips, chocolate, chocolate biscuits or jelly sweets. If it’s there, it’s going in my belly.  Similarly at work, if someone brings in treats (and we seem to be a team of perpetual cake eaters, there is *always* something on offer) the minute I have one cake/ biscuit/ mini flapjack it’s all I can think about for the rest of the day.  So a really quick and easy trick for me is to either get the treats out of sight or to throw it away. You know I despise food waste so ideally you’d donate your unwanted treats to family, colleagues or even neighbours.  Unopened items can even go to food banks which will welcome the donation.  I can’t eat something I can’t see – and if I can’t see it I won’t crave it.

Which leads me on nicely to my favourite: the ‘add-in principle’.  Put simply it’s where you crowd the bad stuff out with the good stuff.  Instead of thinking ‘oh I can’t have that packet of sweets/ cake/shortbread’ try to add IN healthier fats and protein in to your existing meals so that  you feel fuller for longer and therefore are less likely to want to snack on something unhealthy.  For example, try adding in some extra nuts to your breakfast in the morning (a small handful, don’t go crazy, this is just a short term measure to get you over the hump), or an extra dollop of yoghurt.  Or at lunchtime try adding in half an avocado to your salad, or add some hummus to your plate. Adding in the odd healthy item to each meal won’t feel like an arduous task but you’ll soon notice that you won’t be craving the sweets and treats as much, if at all.  This also works well when you’re in the grip of a craving and can’t think of anything else.  In these instances I reach for a healthy snack first (yoghurt and berries, hard boiled egg and spinach or a handful of roasted chickpeas) first and then if the craving remains or resurfaces then I can chose to eat something less than virtuous and eat it mindfully rather than because I’m about to go over the edge if I don’t have chocolate now, now, now.

Lastly, be prepared!  I find that by slowly getting in to cooking again I start to get my meal prep and planning mojo back, which in turn leads to leftovers and voila instant healthy lunches.  As with the moderation point above, sometimes just cooking one meal with enough for leftovers the next day is enough to jolt me out of an unhealthy rut.  Go slowly and don’t put pressure on yourself to cook a week’s worth of meals, just do one.  In the same vein, pack one snack in your bag or pack one tea or coffee to go rather than buy one on the go.  These small actions (if taken one by one) won’t feel overwhelming but will gradually get you back in to healthy habits.

By incorporating a few of the above tweaks after about a week or so I start to notice that my unhealthy habits start to tip back into healthy ones.  It takes time, so don’t pressure yourself to change your diet overnight, but with small consistent efforts you’ll start to see these small changes add up to big ones.

Before I sign off completely remember that drinking lots helps too.  I reach for peppermint tea (or the Pukka detox herbal teas) when I’m about to make a bad food choice.  Having a drink makes me stop and think about whether I genuinely want to eat that burger/ cake/ cookie and also helps to fill me up – plus, I think peppermint tea is the best.  The act of taking 20 minutes for a cup of tea might make the difference between a healthy choice or an unhealthy one.

Remember to be consistent, be kind on yourself and be patient. You’ll get there.  And even if you fall off the wagon again, it’s ok; it’s all part of the journey.  Get back up and try again, your body won’t judge you – and neither will I.

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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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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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.

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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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Tips and tricks

Food prep made easy

Lets talk about food prep.   You only have to type #foodprep in to Instagram and you’re overwhelmed with hundreds, if not thousands, of images of perfectly prepared and portioned meals for the week which are set out in pristine kitchens without a hint of mess or fuss – I’m not knocking it, if you’re one of those people then please tell me your secrets because no matter how hard I try I always end up with food all over me and the floor.  So when you see these perfect images where somehow someone has managed to make 25 meals in 2 hours food prep seems like a pretty inaccessible concept doesn’t it?

Well, here’s the thing.  It doesn’t have to be.  If you’re put off by the idea of food prep; or you love the idea but can’t see how you can fit it in to your already busy schedule; or you simply don’t know where to start I’m here to reassure you that it’s easier than you think – and will definitely save you some time mid-week when you’re frazzled and would eat a lump of tarmac if someone else cooked it for you.

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