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Knebworth House Garden Show

Knebworth House Garden Show

Last weekend I headed to Knebworth House for their Garden Show. I am a sucker for garden shows, events and centres. I do have one slight issues however, I can’t garden.

My Granddad was a keen gardener, focusing mostly on fruits and vegetables. He was a pro at it, trying to teach me for many years but I never did pick it up. Without getting my hands dirty I am pretty terrible, I don’t think my Granddad ever trusted me to lay my hands on his crops. I always let him work his magic whilst I sat and watched, then ate the rewards afterwards.

My Nanna is a pro in the flower department. Now my granddad is sadly no longer with us, the vegetable patch has reduced significantly and the rest of the garden is my Nanna’s colourful paradise. In an attempt to live on my Granddad’s skills, I started with a very small patch of herbs and kale (obviously). The flower department however, I think I will leave that to my Nan.

Whenever I have tried to grow plants I simply kill them off in a matter of weeks. I had a beautiful in-house plant that needed watering once a week; killed that off. I even had a cactus once. I wouldn’t say I killed that one, but fair to say it had it’s way with me. After far too many pricks in my hand, legs and arms, he had to go.

Now I go to garden shows, centres and events just to admire the pretty plants and dream of one day being able to grow my own plant paradise. The thought of being able to grow all my own vegetables, at least, would be absolutely amazing. Call me quack-ers, but it’s true. Nothing beats home-grown produce. Satiety, nourishment and fulfilment, let alone money saving! The flower department would be beautiful, but I think I’ll start with the produce. If you have any tips or advice I would be very grateful.

 

Healthy Flapjack Recipe

Healthy Flapjack Recipe

There are certain times when your body craves sweet foods. No matter how hard we try to fight it by eating healthier alternatives, we just can’t shift that craving. Our Oestrogen levels are through the roof and our body simply craves sugar. Instead of constantly trying to fight that craving, if you succumb to it and eat what you fancy, the craving goes away. As a result, you stop walking back and forth to your fridge or cupboards in the hope that something will just pop up that wasn’t there two minutes ago.

I have a huge sweet tooth so I always have to have something sweet ready to hand. I live with my parents at the moment and them Lotus biscuits they have in the cupboard are far too tempting when there’s nothing else for me to satisfy my sugar craving!

This week I made some flapjack because that is exactly what I fancied. You can easily make a vegan alternative of flapjack with vegan butter, golden syrup and oats; simple! However, I don’t like to eat golden syrup or vegan butter because I choose to eat whole plant foods instead. They’re better for our health and that’s what I enjoy to eat. So, it is up to you to which you prefer, and if you prefer the healthy option, keep reading and try these!

I’d have taken better photos for you but the honest truth is, it was dark when I made them and with the help of my family they were all eaten within about 3-4 days. I’ve been busy on the go lately and couldn’t find time to take good pictures, but that doesn’t alter the taste right? 🙂

So, enjoy and I hope you like them!

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 bananas
  • 360g rolled oats
  • 6 tbsp. date syrup (or maple syrup, honey, your preference)
  • 6 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 4 tbsp. coconut oil
  • cinnamon (optional!)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (180 degrees).

Place the oats in a mixing bowl.

Mash the bananas with a fork and add them to a saucepan with the peanut butter, coconut oil, syrup and cinnamon (if using cinnamon). Heat at a low temperature until all combined and delicious.

Pour mixture gradually into oats and combine well.

Once all mixed, grease your baking tray with coconut oil and then transfer your oat mixture into the tray. Press down with fork or spatula until all neat and firm, then pop into the oven.

Cook for 15-20mins, until the top looks nice and golden.

Remove from oven and allow to cool (or if you’re like me, eat when hot).

 

Side note:

These can be eaten hot or cold, but a great indulgence tip. Try mixing together date syrup (or whatever syrup you used for the recipe), raw cacao and boiled water to heat it up a bit. This makes a delicious chocolate sauce. Pour over heated flapjack (I cooked for 30seconds in microwave). It is incredible. Pure indulgence!!

The chocolate sauce, ratio is 1:1:1 (i.e. 1tsp cacao, 1tsp syrup, tsp hot water). Add quantities as desired, you may want to double the sweetness if you prefer it more sweet, its entirely up to you, but just a guidance 🙂

 

Why I’m not giving up food for lent

Why I’m not giving up food for lent

Why I’m not giving up food for lent.

Each year lent comes and goes, many don’t succeed and for some they do. Most of those who take part in lent have no religious beliefs what so ever, however they want to challenge themselves to give up something to see if they can do it. I am all for supporting peoples desires and if you do this and succeed at it then that is super creditable; good on you!!

I just wanted to share why I won’t be giving up anything for lent this year, and haven’t done for a good few years.

Lent is a religious event where Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. In his honour people give up something for this period of time, mostly a food item. I’m not aware of the “rules” but I know some people chose to give up a behaviour, which is great!

I questioned lent for a few days in the run up thinking, what should I give up? I googled lent and saw the reasoning for it and I knew straight away I wasn’t going to give up a food. Firstly, I’m not religious, but I always like a challenge. The thing that occurred to me however is that for once in my life there isn’t one item of food I want to give up!

I am finally in a great place with my diet and my mind and this means that I can eat anything I desire; no limitations! Coming from an eating disorder it was always about giving up a food, restriction, eating good and eating bad. There was no balance. Fast forward to March 1st 2017 I can say that there is not 1 item of food (or drink for that matter) that I feel I need to give up!

For others you may feel you need to give up something for whatever reason, but if this is the case then don’t let Lent be your reasoning. Do it for you and your health, this doesn’t need to start tomorrow, or at New Years, start now and for the long term.

If you are religious, then go for it! Your beliefs go way beyond just giving up a food for health, it’s your religion. I am just going on why many people I know give up a food for lent, and that isn’t for religious beliefs.

Good luck to all those giving up something for Lent and do what you love, follow what you love, and be happy in doing so.

 

What to Eat to Reduce Inflammation

What to Eat to Reduce Inflammation

What to eat to reduce Inflammation

A topic of conversation that regularly comes up in my working practise is inflammation.

Inflammation is at the root of many common, long term diseases: arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, to name a few. With education and correct food choices, symptoms can be reduced and discomfort eased.

Inflammation is not always a bad thing. In fact, inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury. It is a protective response to remove harmful stimuli such as damaged cells, irritants and pathogens. Problems occur however when inflammation becomes chronic.

Chronic inflammation can last from months to years. If not kept under control, or ideally eliminated, chronic inflammation can cause disease and illness. Through our diet, we are able to reduce inflammation and ultimately help health problems away.

Try adding the following foods into your diet to reduce inflammation:

  • Dark leafy greens (Kale, Swiss chard and Spinach)

Rich in Vitamins A, C and K. These greens are high in antioxidants that restore cellular health. Eat in salads, smoothies, stir fries and more.

  • Celery

High in antioxidants and a natural anti-inflammatory. Improves blood pressure, cholesterol levels and can prevent heart disease. Eaten as a raw snack or an addition to any cold pressed juice, stock, stew or homemade pasta sauce.

  • Beetroot

Contains antioxidant Betalain, a fantastic anti-inflammatory. Beetroot has incredible benefits when added in just small quantities. Try adding to a cold pressed juice, made into a beetroot hummus, boiled for a salad topper, burger or sandwich. Alternative options include spiralised on a salad, roasted or home-made healthy crisps!

  • Broccoli

Known as the “antioxidant powerhouse”, broccoli is packed with key vitamins to lower oxidative stress on the body and reduce chronic inflammation.

  • Blueberries

Contain a flavonoid called quercetin which fights inflammation and cancer. Blueberries can be eaten as a snack, put into smoothies, added to cereals or into your oatmeal.

  • Pineapple

Pineapple contains bromelain. Studies have shown that bromelain stops blood platelets from sticking together and building along the walls of blood vessels which leads to heart attacks and stroke.

  • Walnuts

The anti-inflammatory compounds in walnuts help protect against type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Walnuts are great chopped up and mixed into pasta sauces, topped on oatmeal or even made into great raw vegan desserts. If you prefer they can be eaten on their own but remember nuts do have a high fat content so although they have fantastic health benefits, do be sure to eat them in moderation.

  • Coconut oil

Lips in coconut oil contain anti-inflammatory compounds which heal arthritis more effectively than medications.

Coconut oil can be heated at high temperatures without destroying its healing benefits, so try using it as an addition to your stir fries, homemade sweet potato chips, or a great addition to oatmeal and smoothies too!

  • Chia seeds

The ultimate “superfood”. Not only high in omega-3 and 6 but Chia seeds have the ability to reverse inflammation, lower blood pressure and regulate cholesterol levels.

Chia seeds can be used in many ways, try adding them onto salads, pasta or rice. Make a chia pudding, pop in a smoothie or into oatmeal. When mixed with water they form a gel which is used as an egg replacer in baking so they really have multiple uses. You will not struggle to get these into your diet!

  • Flaxseeds

Another great source of omega-3’s. Flaxseeds are high in antioxidants which are hormone balancing and great for cellular health.

Like chia seeds, flaxseeds can be used in multiple ways: sprinkle onto salads, on top of pastas or rice, or as an egg replacer in baking. For baking you will need the ground version of flaxseed and not the whole seed. An easy way to add flaxseed into your diet is in smoothies, 1 tbsp is a great amount and you can’t taste it either!

  • Turmeric

As you may have heard before, turmeric is fantastic at reducing inflammation. It’s active anti-inflammatory component, curcumin, is it’s primary compound.

Simply add this powerhouse into home-made curries, a warming addition to your rice, cold pressed juices or a warming turmeric latte!

  • Ginger

Ginger has the ability to break down the accumulation of toxins in the bodies organs. Use dry or fresh, it works the same way.

Ginger is a common spice and an essential part of any curry however it has many other uses. Try: fresh ginger and lemon water, freshly made juice, stir fries and raw vegan desserts. Due to the powerful flavour of ginger it can be a more difficult addition to a diet, however you only need a small amount to get the benefits so have some practise with it.

 

Eliminate the following inflammation inducing foods:

  • ALL processed meats
  • Red meats
  • Margarine, shortening and lard
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Fried foods
  • Refined carbohydrates (white breads, pastries, doughnuts etc)

Vegan friendly chocolate

Vegan friendly chocolate

Vegan friendly chocolate.

There seems to be a misconception that when you turn vegan you suddenly stop eating chocolate; this is not the case. There are many brands of chocolate offering dairy free options which don’t have to come from the “free from” section. If you like dark chocolate then you will find the transition easy. If you don’t enjoy dark chocolate it could take a while to make the transition however over time you will get used to the taste and start to love it.

It is possible to get milk and white vegan chocolate however it does have to come from the “free from” section because it isn’t naturally made dairy free. As a result the cost will be a bit higher than your regular chocolate bars.

Things to note:

  • not all dark chocolate is vegan so always double check the label.
  • dairy products are mostly always in bold however “butterfat” is sometimes not highlighted; so again double check the label.

Some facts about chocolate:

Chocolate is made from the cacao plant which in its most natural state is actually a health food. Not to be confused with cocoa, cacao is naturally high in antioxidants and has numerous health benefits. Alongside a healthy diet, cacao has the ability to balance blood pressure, lower cholesterol, reduce arterial plaque and ultimately reverse heart disease.

Other health benefits:

  • Its high in magnesium which increases energy levels and protects against osteoporosis.
  • Cacao boosts serotonin levels and endorphins which improve mood and balance mood swings.
  • It contains healthy fats which create chemical reactions for growth, immune function and metabolic function.

I have accumulated a section of photos on my trip around Tesco, finding all the vegan chocolate I could. Other supermarkets and health shops have more choice so you’re never short of options. These are mainstream brands, where as health shops have great raw chocolate varieties (and more!) but at a higher cost.

Other alternatives include raw cacao powder (to create your own great vegan desserts/ treats) and cacao nibs (to add to snacks, smoothies and oats).

Find some of your mainstream varieties below.

Green & Black’s

Tesco’s Own

Lindt

Green & Blacks Thins

Tesco Finest

Bournville

Ritter Sport (not their mint variety)

BENDICK’S

 

To find out more about how chocolate is made, go view my post on how I made chocolate in the Amazon!

Being the only vegan at a party

Being the only vegan at a party

Being the only vegan at a party

I don’t know if it has happened to you before but I sometimes feel like I am the only vegan in the village. Eating a vegan diet does make you the minority, although the number of us are on the increase, so there are things you need to accept.

  • people don’t always understand you
  • people think you only eat lettuce and carrots
  • you may be weird to some people
  • some people assume you are judging them OR that they’re making you feel uncomfortable eating meat near you
  • some genuinely don’t know how to cater for you
  • don’t expect to be catered for at parties and don’t take offence!!

As a result of this you have to be confident in what you’re doing, happy with what you’re doing and always be prepared.

Here are some quick tips to help you feel comfortable in party situations:

  • eat before you go: you wont offend anyone at the party because chances are there’s not much substantial you will be able to eat there. Eating before hand ensures you wont be hungry there so you wont get “hangry” and want to leave. You want to be happy and comfortable there so make sure you’re well fed before hand.
  • take something with you:  super easy tip. Take food with you! Share you’re food with others, it will make you blend in and people will appreciate the gift 🙂
  • don’t make comments about there being no vegan food available: in a room full of numerous “normal” eating people, you can’t expect that on top of catering for all them people that they’re going to go that extra mile for you. They have spent a lot of time and effort into preparing the party so don’t mention you’re vegan and there’s nothing to eat, simply say you’re not hungry or “no thank you” to non-vegan offerings.
  • find any vegan food you can and take it before it goes: there’s a chance that there will be a cheese board with fresh or dried fruits. Take some and pop them on your plate before they all go. Bread is normally available and if you’re lucky some salads or veggie sticks. More times than none there will be vegan options but get them on your plate at the beginning of the party, just incase they run out by the time you’re hungry.
  • don’t worry about it: at the end of the day you’re not there for the food, you’re there for the party. Enjoy the party and be social. Social environments don’t always have to revolve around food and if they do just make sure you’re prepared.

I hope these few, quick tips help you for when you feel like the only vegan in the village 🙂

 

 

Finding happiness with food

Finding happiness with food

Finding happiness with food.

There have been times in the past year (well, 2016 until now) that I have just sat back and realised how far I have come.

As you all may know, 7 years ago almost to the day, I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. The whole ordeal was a nightmare and I really was at rock bottom. Depressed, malnourished and my body giving up on me, I didn’t know what the future had in store for me.

Time passed and although the physical effects of the Anorexia had gone, the mental effects lasted around 5 years. I had to retrain myself to eat normally and not to be afraid of food. Not to be obsessing over what I’m eating or feeling extremely anxious in public environments where food was present; it was painful.

After spending days, months and years researching nutrition to the fullest I could, it wasn’t until I found veganism that I noticed changes. I knew that eating a plant based diet I could eat healthy nutritious food and it was giving my body goodness. I was able to eat and thrive. I could eat food in abundance and not worry if it was going to make me sick, if I was going to binge and purge, along with all the other mental and physical issues it would result in.

18 months into eating a plant based diet I am not only thriving physically and mentally but I am finally at peace with food. I am able to sit in social environments and feel comfortable. I am happy with my body because I know I am healthy. I don’t care that I have fat on me because I know I am healthy.

I enjoy the occasional sweet treat and that is fine. The fact I can eat a cake (albeit vegan) and not feel guilty or binge out because “I’ve blown being good” is something I never thought would ever happen. I can sit in a room of people all eating cake and not stare at it thinking “should I have some or shall I be good?”. These things that some people may think are normal or little things feel like a miracle to me!

For years I spent my time obsessing over the food I put in my mouth. Worrying over what I was eating and constantly questioning what to eat, how much to eat, if I should eat it or not. Now however, these questions are not there. I eat three main meals a day, I eat what I like and all guilt has disappeared. I snack on healthy foods but these foods I enjoy.

I enjoy eating healthy. I don’t miss dairy or meat because they don’t make me happy. When I think of meat and dairy I don’t get the excitement that other people may get. This may be because of my eating disorder background but that’s ok. I do what I do for me because it makes me feel good.

Not everyone understands what I do but that is fine. I am happy and I am content. I’ve finally found peace with food and I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Now I just want to share the amazing benefits of a plant based diet and encourage everyone to just try and eat better so that they can find peace too.

Whatever makes you happy is what you should do. No one has the right to tell you otherwise because it’s only you who has the power over your actions.

Thank you for listening to me and I hope this gives you more of an insight into why it is I am so passionate about this subject.

 

Be Fat Smart

Be Fat Smart

Be Fat Smart: your guide to knowing what fats you should and shouldn’t be eating and why they are good for us!

Before we get into the benefits of adding fats into your diet let share some knowledge.

What exactly is fat?

Fat is a rich source of energy made up of essential fatty acids. These fatty acids are broken down into the following classifications, determined by their chemical structure: saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Fats high source of energy means for 1 gram of fat, we are provided with 9kcals. To compare this, for 1 gram of carbohydrate or protein we consume we are provided with just 4 kcals.

Ultimately, it is easier to overeat on fats than it is on carbohydrates or protein. Although is it possible eat too much of both, the way our bodies store this over consumption of energy is the same; it is stored as fat. The reason for this is that our body’s cells have limited stores therefore once full it can no longer create any more energy from that source. The more fat that is deposited, over time leads to serious conditions such as heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Know the differences

Saturated:

Known as the “bad fat” saturated fats are known to raise low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) leading to blocked arteries, and restricted blood flow to the brain and heart. This increases risk of stroke and heart disease. There are ongoing debates as to whether there is “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol, but for many years it has been suggested that high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) is good for us. HDL cholesterol is known to take cholesterol from parts of the body where there is too much of it and transport it back to the liver where it is deposited of.

High saturated fats include:

Animal based:

  • meat products: sausages, pies, sandwich meats
  • fatty cuts of meat
  • butter, ghee and lard
  • all cheese
  • all creams including ice cream
  • cakes, biscuits and pastries
  • some savoury snacks and chocolate confectionery

Plant based:

  • palm oil
  • coconut oil and cream

Trans fats:

The UK eats minimal levels of trans fats and it is found in low levels in the following foods: animal products, both meat and dairy, and hydrogenated vegetable oil. Supermarkets have taken strong measures to ensure that hydrogenated oils aren’t in their own products however always be sure to check. On average the UK gets just half the required maximum level recommended therefore it is more important to focus on reducing saturated fats. Like saturated fats, trans fats increase LDL cholesterol and the recommended daily intake is just 5% of our daily caloric intake. Eating a plant based diet you will more than likely consume 0% trans fats in your diet.

Unsaturated fats:

The fats that we all SHOULD be eating! These are the fats you want to include in your diet and switch out the saturated fats. Unsaturated fats come from plant based foods and this is what makes the body thrive. Eating unsaturated fats and banishing saturated fats will cut your risk of heart disease and stroke, and can even help to lower cholesterol.

Unsaturated fats can be either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.

Monounsaturated fats:

These fats help to reduce our LDL cholesterol and maintain our HDL cholesterol, thus protecting our hearts.

Monounsaturated fats are found in:

  • oils from: olives and rapeseed (including their spreads)
  • almonds, brazils and peanuts
  • avocados

Polyunsaturated:

Polyunsaturated fats can also help reduce our LDL cholesterol and come in two types: omega 3 and omega 6. The body cannot make all the essential omega 3 and 6 fats and therefor these need to be added into our diets.

Omega 6:

  • nuts
  • sunflower oil and rapeseed oil

Omega 3:

  • flaxseeds
  • chia seeds
  • oily fish (if you consume fish)

Omega 3 and 6 are extremely important to have in a plant based diet as these are found in the least common foods. If you cook with oil then you will get enough Omega 6 in your diet, however to get sufficient levels of Omega 3 it is important toad flaxseed and chia seeds into your diet, as well as a plant based protein which included Omega 3’s.

Benefits of getting healthy Unsaturated fats in your diets include:

  • reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, cancers and more
  • increased satiety levels meaning you will be full and satisfied and not reach for unhealthy foods instead
  • provides us with energy
  • provides us with essential fatty acids for growth, healthy skin, vitamin-absorption
  • regulates of bodily functions

To summarise, eating fats is an essential part of our diets. When we choose correctly we are able to lower our cholesterol levels and thrive off the fat that we eat. Making the swap from saturated to unsaturated fats can reduce your risk of serious health conditions and it doesn’t include cutting out fat from your diet completely. You can still enjoy good, healthy plant based foods but like most tings this still needs to be done in moderation. Our body only has limited energy stores so no matter where the food is coming from, if we eat too much of it it gets deposited as fat.

Your meals should consist of mostly fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates. A small addition of fats should be added to each meal to help you feel satisfied and full.

Try adding:

  • nut butter into your porridge
  • avocado into your pasta or onto toast
  • tahini onto your toast or pasta sources
  • flaxseeds into your smoothie
  • chia seeds onto salads, oats, smoothies
  • some squares of rich dark chocolate as a treat
  • coconut milk into your curries
  • nut butters with dates

The key is to not be afraid to add fat into your diet because it can be so beneficial for us when done correctly. Have small amounts and enjoy it. Food is for enjoyment as well as keeping us healthy and thriving so always keep that in mind.