Start by Nailing these Basics

pomergranite

 

Healthy Eating is a minefield. 

BUT....I bet if I asked you your thoughts, you would already have a pretty rounded picture of what to eat/not eat. Sure there are nuances we start to get into to balance the various macro nutrients for training needs, for lifestyle preferences, for body type etc but the basic foundation behind it all is self-education and trial & error.

Probably the biggest mistake I encounter is people making it too complicated; trying to track macros, eat very restrictive foods, set unreasonable targets, follow insta/youtube stars and eat exactly like they do and so on....we've all been there, we've all tried and we've all come out more confused and frustrated than ever.

So I am going to hopefully shed some light on all of this but I promise you the best thing you can do right now is make healthy eating SIMPLE.

basil
kiwi

Nailing the basics is your simple first step. 

There are some fundamental rules you can start to apply to your daily routine right now that will have a significant impact on your mood, energy levels and appearance. The only catch is that you need to be consistent, meaning you need to literally rinse and repeat.

Healthy eating is simple, but not easy.

If it's so simple, why doesn't everyone look like a superstar! Well the truth is it's not enough to be a #healthmaven on some days and make allowances on others because the cumulative effect is that you just breakeven and stay stuck. There are a few other common faults a lot of us fall prey to and just to note these (I will detail them in another post) may include:

  • Not eating enough food!
  • Still eating too much (Anyone else not able to control their nut butter portion?) even if it is quote 'healthy' 
  • Skipping the weight training in favour of non-stop cardio - you need muscle to look lean and toned.
  • Relying on #lowfat #zerofat #nofat foods waaaay too much
  • Relying on meal replacements
  • Being a weekend warrior i.e. anything goes Fri - Sun 
  • Poor stress and sleep management = hormone out of whack.
  • You need to check your expectations. Change takes time and patience, it doesn't happen overnight. These 16/12/8/4 week transformations are typically very unrealistic and even when achieved, the results are short term. Think about it, how often do you get to see the 'after after picture'?

These are just some errors and each deserves more detail which I will get to in another post. Right now I don't want to focus on the 'must nots' and look more closely at just the 'must dos'. 

The guidelines below are the absolute starting point for anyone and everyone, no matter what stage you are at in your health journey. These basics need to be a consistent and almost mindless part of your day-to-day diet and ONLY THEN should you start learning and exploring modifications.

I will re-iterate once again that we are all unique, with different needs and lifestyles meaning the next section is a guideline only. Try it, see how you feel and adjust from there. 

And remember. Patience, Grasshopper.


The basic set up

To sum it up in one sentence, you want to aim for good quality protein, plenty of coloured vegetables, healthy fats and some fruit and whole grains.

  • 3-4 good meals per day [enough to keep you satisfied and not grabbing for snacks all the time]
  • Each Meal is Set Up As Follows (snacks half the size)
    1. Protein: 1 palm women, 2 palm sized servings for men
    2. Vegetables: At least two cups of vegetables of choice
    3. Fats: 1 thumb sized portion of fats like nuts, seeds, avocado, oils. 
    4. Whole grains: 1 cupped handful cooked grains OR replace with more vegetables OR 1 piece of fruit.

And that's it. 


So let's look at some examples of macro nutrients. To quickly recap:

Macro Nutrients: Protein (meat, chicken, fish), Carbohydrate (fruit, veg, grains, beans), fats (avocado, oils, butter); these are the big building blocks

Micro Nutrients: Vitamins (A,B,C,D,E,K) and Minerals (magnesium, potassium, sodium etc). These are the key players that take up the building blocks and bring them to their required location. 

This is partly why processed, empty calories food is so bad for you; it confuses the body and when in doubt, your fat cells are the preferred storage location.


berries

rotein: salmon, hake, cod, tuna, chicken, eggs, beef, pork, duck, soya, tempeh

Carbohydrates:

  • All veg: cucumber, potato, butternut, cabbage, kale....
  • All fruit: apple, pear, berries, bananas
  • All whole grains: oats, millet, rice, buckwheat, rye
  • Legumes: beans, pulses

Fats:

  • Nuts & Seeds: chia, hemp, cashew, almonds
  • Oils: coconut, olive, almond, avocado oil
  • Other: avocado

That's about it. See? Easy!

Yes there is a lot more to play with: timing, macros, high/low fat, high/low carb etc etc etc BUT this is absolutely futile to do at random and hope for some sort of result. You have to first develop your baseline and then slowly incorporate more and more from there.

And sometimes you don't have to incorporate anything! Not everyone has to track their macros or eat ketogenic - it's about finding what's right for you and balancing it into your lifestyle in a healthy and stress-free way!

Until next time. 

Three 'Health Smart' Phone Hacks You Need To Check Out

smartphone hacks

Technology is amazing and terrifying at the same time. We have made unfounded progress over the last 30 years not only in hardware, but software too. And that's all great but how is it also now weird if you don't have a Facebook account?

The problem is that we are so switched on and exposed to so much information all the time, that our brains are just not able to cope.

Thanks to telephone, internet and mobile, we now receive five times as much information every day as we did in 1986! You actually read about 6 newspapers worth of information a day.

So there you go. The good news about being online is that we are more connected than ever....the bad news....well...we are more connected than ever. It's sad really how removed we are from reality.... How many selfies have you taken recently, how many snapchat stories, how many hashtags...Have you ever looked around a restaurant and noted that literally everyone is staring at the phone? I mean have you ever heard of talking and enjoying the company....

It's part of our generation but it's also something to be wary of. While it's not possible to switch off completely, there's a few things you can do to make a start. For one, the last thing you need this 24-hour connection to affect is your time outside of work and health.

Below are some simple tips you can use on your smart phone.


BedTime:

A new feature on the updated iOS allows you to answer some questions and get a recurring wake-up alarm and a reminder when it's bed time.

How to get it: go into your alarms and you'll see it at the bottom of your screen. The rest is self-explanatory

bedtimeiphone

Do Not Disturb:

How annoying is it to receive and open an email just as you get into bed? Well there is a way to avoid it! The 'do not disturb' option allows you to block all calls/messages manually etc but there is also an option to schedule it to set at certain times...for example when you get home from work maybe? or at bedtime?

And if you're worried to miss a potential emergency call from a family member (parents, children etc), you can set it so that calls from your 'favourites' are always allowed.

How to get it: Go into settings and scroll down to the 'do not disturb'. Click into it and select 'schedule'

donotdisturbiphone

Night Shift:

The other side of constantly staying 'switched on' is staring at blue light late at night. This sends a mixed message to the brain and results in a bad nights sleep. How? Well you have blue light and red light. Back in the good old days (when we hunted and gathered) blue light would wake us up (think sunrise) and red light would help us wind down with the evening and get sleepy (think camp fire).

Same concept still applies and regulates our 24 hour cycle, or more formally the circadian rhythm. Blue light syncs with cortisol, our stress hormone, which rises and should reach it's peak naturally in the morning to wake you up before gently easing off and making room for melatonin to come in and naturally get you sleepy as the night sets in.

Problem: We constantly expose ourselves to blue light, especially in the evening - TV, computer, phone, iPad.

How to get Night Shift: this setting allows you to set a specific time on your iPhone for the backlight to naturally dim. Go into settings, display/brightness and you will see night shift!

displayandbrightness

If you want the same on your computer, I highly recommend f.lux. It's the same idea and will naturally regulate itself in the background in line with your timezone. I LOVE it!

Your Task: Switch off more. Pick one of the following:

  • No technology at a certain time....e.g. at the table, in bed, or after 6pm
  • No technology for one whole day a week! #notechnologysunday
  • At the very least, no work emails once you leave the office.

It's one of my big goals for this year - be more present.

Lyda

Meal Prep Hacks to Get Anyone Into the Kitchen

mealprep

Ah that elusive concept of healthy eating......Seriously though, I bet if I asked you your thoughts, you would already have a pretty rounded picture of what to eat/not eat. Sure there are nuances we start to get into to balance the various macro nutrients for training needs, for lifestyle preferences, for body type etc but the basic premise that rounds out all of it is education and trial & error. 

There is no magic formula. 

Probably the biggest mistake I encounter is people making it too complicated; trying to track macros, eat very restrictive foods, set unreasonable targets and so on....we've all been there.

So I am going to hopefully shed some light on all of this in the forthcoming emails but I promise you the best thing you can do right now is make healthy eating SIMPLE.

Below are some ideas to help you get started. Given that motivation is so high right now with it being January and all, I suggest you try to implement as many of these as you feel is realistic to your lifestyle.....don't do it all just for the sake of it because that will be a disaster but motivation will be a massive help right now to take action and hopefully keep going to make it a habit! 

 

1. Nutribullet & Freezer Bags

 

No surprise here that a smoothie is both a really easy meal and a great way to pack in the fruit/veg. The main points to note:

  • Always some protein: protein powder, hemp seeds, chia seeds or chicken breast (JOKE).
  • Choose your liquid wisely: Avoid fruit juice & cow's milk in favour of water, coconut water, nut milk or even cold brew coffee.
  • Always more veg than fruit: Try spinach, avocado, carrot, beetroot, celery.
  • Here's one: lemon, water, green apple, dill, pink salt, cayenne, avocado, ice

Top tip: When I come home from my grocery shop, I like to prep all my ingredients there and then - chop my apple/banana/avocado/celery etc - and portion these out into freezer zip lock bags which I then immediately freeze. That way all I have to do is take one bag out, add nut milk and whizz it up. It makes the smoothie super cold and creamy too!

2. Slow Cooker

 

 

If you're not in the mood for a cold drink.....then the slow cooker is a great option! I am addicted for the simple reason that for zero hassle, I can have a ready meal waiting for me when I get home from work. You can cook so many things - lemon chicken, stews, curry, chilli, broth, soups.....even slow cooked oats! 

Put all ingredients in, turn it on and come back 6 hours later. It's doesn't get easier.

3. The Magic of the Ice Tray (links to my pinterest page)

 

There are some great uses for this little kitchen item....

One of the easiest ways to add flavour to your meals is bone broth - why not freeze leftovers from the slow cooker as you go.

Or just chop and freeze your herbs in olive oil to pop into soups or stews!

Why not try flavoured ice cubes - water/chopped melon/chopped cucumber/mint - cut up and put into tray. Great way to spice up your water.

You could try lemon cubes - I explained this one here.

Oh and the final secret -frozen coffee ice cubes to add into a bit of baileys. You could also freeze left over wine for stews.

Maybe some green tea, ginger ice cubes to pop into your smoothie.

Do this once a month and you're all set up! 

4. The Condiments/Herbs & Spices

 

I get that trying to eat healthy can sometimes be a bit bland...especially while your taste buds re-adjust and you figure out what the heck to eat. But adding some sauce can really help....it's just about knowing the right kinda sauce to add.......

Most dressings/curries/pasta sauces/condiments come with a heap load of sugar and a heap load of unnecessary ingredients. My top two winners are:

  • French's Mustard
  • Frank's Hot Sauce
  • I can't do soya sauce (gluten) but liquid aminos or coconut aminos taste identical
  • Homemade salsa: tomato or mango
  • Guacamole - homemade. Store bought have a lot of bad stuff
  • Raita - basically good quality yogurt with chopped mint and cucumber
  • Garlic butter
  • A really good relish or chutney
  • Pickles/gherkins/sauerkraut/red onion marmalade 
  • My magic vinaigrette: Whisk in bowl or even better a nutri bullet; fine chopped garlic, olive oil, squeeze lemon, apple cider vinegar....you could add tiny bit of honey if you're craving sweet. If you're a hard gainer, you could add some almond butter or tahini.

Game changing tip: Aldi do amazing pre chopped herbs in their frozen sections. The garlic granules are a must have.

 

5. Store Bought Smart Snacks

Ok we all know what the 'bad' choices are but don't be fooled by the 'health isle' either. Marketing is a wonderful thing and big companies employ big people and spend big money to get you to buy the stuff....even if that means twisting the words.

Scan these words: Organic, HomeMade, Whole food, Nutrient Rich, Superfood, Natural, Raw, Gluten Free, Vegan....They all sound good for you right?

Well sadly, no. Even I have been duped before but some of these bars and snacks have more sugar than a normal mars bar. I agree, those words above generally mean there is much less processing involved compared to conventional chocolate and that the ingredients are for the most part (not always) more natural but the key point is that it's still to be eaten in moderation!

Some simple suggestions:

  • A piece of fruit and some nuts
  • Pip and Nut Butter Packets
  • Plain whole yogurt with some berries
  • A small packet of dried mango (check label for no sugar, most stores have them now) with some nuts
  • Naked Bars / Bounce Balls / Fulfil Bars / Quest / Protein balls etc - all fine but keep tabs on these. Don't assume you can eat double because they're 'healthy'

6. Quick Cooking

I have touched on some of these above but this sections summarises my top methods of cooking for a quick and easy option when you're really stuck.

  • Eggs - boiled, omelette, scrambled, fried, poached. Always such an easy fix no matter time of day.
  • Nutri Bullet for all your smoothie needs.
  • A Slow Cooker or even a large pot to make an abundance of easy meals for the week like curry, chilli, soup.....
  • Stir Fries - a great way to get extra veg in too!
  • One tray & bulk cooking - Got the oven on? Why not stick more food in than just dinner! Fill one side with roasted vegetables and the other with 4-6 chicken fillets and you've got dinner and 4 meals sorted.
  • Tin foil - Another oven made meal: get some tin foil and in the middle put some fish/chicken and surround with vegetable of choice. Drizzle with oil/salt/herbs of choice and seal the parcel in a boat shape. Make a few and put all in the oven for 30 minutes. Same trick - lunch for the week sorted!
  • Peckish? Once you pop you can't stop? Grab a muffin tray with 6 spaces. Fill each with different snacks; nuts, seeds, baby tomatoes, peppers, carrots etc

7. Super Quick Meals

 

And finally if cooking methods aren't enough, you can take inspiration from the below:

  • Chia seed pudding 
  • Overnight oats
  • Sliced apple and almond butter
  • Pizza - yes I said it. Well kinda...corn tortilla is your base, add toppings of choice
  • Frozen Grapes
  • Frozen Banana chopped into pieces drizzled with some dark chocolate and frozen
  • Par baked sweet potato with an egg. Bake sweet potato whole in the oven for 30 minutes or until you can pierce with a fork. Remove from oven, slice in half, make a little hole in the middle and crack an egg. Stick back in the oven for 15 minutes. 
  • Salmon/prawn skewers - amazing how a stick can spruce something up

My favourite Kitchen Items for Quick & Easy:

 

Et Voila! Bon Appetit!

Lyda

 

 

 

 

 

The Liquid Diet: A look at 6 common beverages and how they stack up on the health scale.

Health
fruit

These days water has some stiff competition: fizzy drinks, caffeine, tea, alcohol, milk, nut milk, juices, vitamin drinks, smoothies, raw juices, coconut water, energy drinks etc.

The liquid industry is one of the largest in the world, closely behind the gasoline and electricity industry and so there is a lot of marketing that goes behind the various brands that 'they' want you to drink. 

It's funny that you would actually die sooner from a lack of water and/or sleep (3-7 days) than from food (up to 30 days). In fact, our bodies are made up of about 60-70% water so this liquid is evidently quite vital for our daily survival and functioning. 

But let's first take a look at the competition and how it fares up:

1. Energy Drinks

Broken down, these drinks have 40-50 individual ingredients including glucose, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, flavours and colourings. The money behind these brands is insane and even big sports starts are frequently seen in adverts drinking Lucozade and recommending Red Bull for recovery. The truth is you have to ask for who would this drink actually be useful? Maybe an athlete training 4-6 hours a day and significantly depleting their energy stores (and again there are better alternatives) might need that 60g of sugar hit. Funny enough the calorie free versions have little effect on actually boosting your energy (because they deliver no fuel i.e. glucose), rather creating a falsified feeling through increased twitching, heart palpitations and some extra heat.

But don't they contain vitamins? Yes some do. The fake kind created in a lab and then put into your delicious cold drink. These artificially created vitamins aren't the same as the real stuff and in fact can be linked to symptoms like itching and flushing of skin, GI upset, heartburn and nausea (you can have some more info here).

Perhaps nice tasting but by no stretch of the imagination can you consider a standard bottle of Lucozade a legitimate recovery drink. 

Verdict: Avoid.

 

2. Caffeine

I am a coffee addict. The real black stuff though - not the caramel macchiato with extra whip. Seriously though, half of these drinks look like full blown desserts and some don't even have coffee in them!!

The jury on coffee being a health food is still out...well very confused at least. Some people swear it protects from cancer, lowers Type 2 diabetes, has antioxidant properties etc while others condemn it for driving adrenal fatigue, screwing our sleep, being linked to cancer and so on.

Personally (remember I love the stuff so I will be biased), from reading some literature on it, I think the poison is in the dose and quality. Coffee is one of the most polluted crops (more info) in the world so always aim to get organic and good quality blends.

If you're stressed, don't load up on coffee. It should never be something you rely on to wake up or 'get through the day'.  Cortisol (the stress hormone) does not react too well by ongoing caffeine coming down your digestive tract. If you're interested which coffee is best, I wrote a very light hearted piece for Stellar Magazine here

PS: avoid decaf at all costs. The bean goes through extra processing to remove the caffeine, methyl chloride that is used to do this is a potential carcinogen, and it seems the benefits of coffee are significantly higher in caffeinated vs decaf coffee.

My tip; Find a good coffee shop that is passionate about making a proper cup. Start to wean off your sugar bombs onto more practical coffee types like latte/cappuccino/americano. Stick with full fat milk where possible because the fat will help slow down the caffeine hit, make you fuller and by default you will also drink less coffee. 

Verdict: Ok but be careful

3. Cow Milk Alternatives

The health industry is really profiting off this one. Now that cow's milk is the bad guy, everyone is rushing to buy the alternatives; almond/rice/oat/hazelnut/cashew/coconut 

While absolutely necessary for many people who are allergic to dairy or just choose to avoid dairy altogether, these milks are deceptive too. Just take a look at the label next time you're out shopping.....I see very little actual 'almond' don't you? In fact sugar is the second ingredient?

Making your own is actually very easy - soak some almonds in water overnight, rinse and refill the water, put the lot in a nutribullet, sieve through a cloth and you have yourself milk. But wait! You are still taking all the goodness out of the almond sadly....the protein and good fats. 

Verdict: It's an okay drink but just be careful to not overdo it.

4. Wine

In moderation, wine is actually 'healthy'. In fact, humans have drank the stuff in copious amounts since the beginning of time! It contains polyphenols that are linked with numerous health benefits that can protect your heart and reduce the risk of clots. Another nutrient, resveratrol, is particularly great for women as it blocks oestrogen. 

The problem? Well you need an awful lot of wine to actually reap all of these benefits. So if you're really that keen, maybe just eat the grapes or supplement.

Verdict: Okay in moderation (seriously, 1 small glass, not bottle)

5. Bone Broth

My mum still finds it hilarious that bone broth has become so popular as this supposed 'superfood' because it was a staple in her diet growing up. In fact, it's been a staple in many cultures for centuries. 

Boiling down various bones, knuckles and tendons releases amazing nutrients into the broth including glycine, vitamin K, collagen, amino acids....all of these are linked to helping repair and rebuild bones, heal wounds and overall boost your digestive and immune system.

Whether the claims are over-hyped or not, there is little reason NOT to drink broth. 

Verdict: Go for It! Make it at home, the store bought stuff is rubbish.

6. Chocolate Milk & Protein Milk

This one drives me bananas, especially the protein milk. When milk became threatened by various research and health guru's steering people away from milk, the industry launched a full scale campaign to grab consumers and drag them back. And they focused on.....PROTEIN. 

Sure milk has protein. But in large amounts, I don't consider milk a good recovery drink. Don't kid yourself on thinking that chocolate milk is actually good for you. It's closer to a dessert and you 

Let's compare PROTEIN MILK, SUPER MILK, and SKIM MILK. The protein different per 100ml is 1 gram....THAT'S IT. There is nothing special about the milk other than that! 

Verdict: Have a protein shake and avoid the inflammation. 

 

juicing

7. Juices

Juice detoxes and store packaged juices are all the craze, especially this time of year. Let's look at the cold pressed/raw stuff first.

Yes I think these can be a great extra to add into your diet but the detox benefits they generally promise are very far fetched. Your body detoxifies itself via various organs, namely the liver. The process has two phases which you can imagine as first putting all the rubbish into one big bin and then sorting it into six bins. To do this efficiently you need a lot of nutrients but two big ones are protein and fibre (neither are found in juice). The second obvious thing is to just reduce the amount of rubbish and eat better food. The concept of juicing appeals to the masses because it promises quick weight loss. But at what cost? Most of this weight is water weight or total weight (a disappointing amount of which is fat). The muscle mass you lose also means you slow your metabolism (great when you go back to eating normal eh) and this muscle also takes an awful long time to recover. The other problem is removing fibre means you are essentially drinking fruit and vegetable sugar meaning you are delivering the nutrients and vitamins via a sugar injection, not great for those who are insulin sensitive or diabetic. More here.

Verdict: Add a vegetable (and 1 fruit max) juice into your daily routine but avoid the 3,5,7 day detoxes. There's much better ways to 'detox' if that's what you're really after. Or better yet, switch to a vegetable smoothie.

The store bought stuff get's even worse. The fruit/veg is processed and one bottle often contains more than your daily intake of sugar! You're actually sometimes better off eating a chocolate bar. Most of these (if not all) are pasteurised and made from concentrate meaning you are pretty much getting zero nutrition.

Remember that fruit is still sugar. And while I think the effects of eating copious amounts of fruit might not be as bad as eating chocolate, you would never eat as much fruit as one juice can pack. Not only that, most of these brands provide you with solely fruit juice. A glass of orange juice for example can have up to 30 grams of fruit sugar. And again you have no fibre, protein or even nutrition. 

Verdict: Make your own, eat a chocolate bar or just buy a bottle of water instead.