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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.

 

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)

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.

 

Let’s talk cheese

Let’s talk cheese

Let’s talk cheese.

When it comes to transitioning to a vegan diet or simply going dairy free, the main difficulty people find is giving up cheese.

All dairy products contain a protein called Casein and cheese contains the most addictive and concentrated form of Casein, Casomorphins. Casomorphins have an opioid effect (opioids: known as one the world’s oldest drugs)! This addictive formula is what was designed to keep the calf suckling its mother’s milk. Now can you see why cheese is so difficult to give up!?

 As well as being highly addictive, cheese contains no fibre. This means that when consuming it you simply don’t get full. If you were to eat fibre rich foods such as rice or beans however, you’d get full. When you can understand this it makes in mentally easier to make the transition to dairy free alternatives, limiting your intake or cutting out cheese all together!

Ultimately you want to make the transition as smoothly as possible and you don’t want to feel like you are restricting yourself. If you want to reduce/ cut out cheese from your life then you need great alternatives and you need flavourful, texture-rich foods that stop you reaching for the cheese!

Habits are made over a life time so don’t expect to be cheese free in a day, although this is possible! However, realistically it is a change of habit. Habits on average take three weeks to break. Three weeks to break a habit which could last a lifetime, really isn’t that long.

 So how can you break the habit?

1) Cheese alternatives. 

These are a great way of transitioning and sticking to a lifetime without real cheese. There are some great varieties out there now and most supermarkets have an entire array of alternatives.

For cheese on toast, baked potatoes, sandwiches, pizza and more! Try Violife (here in the U.K.). I’ve heard from many people that this is the best on the market and they come in many varieties.

There is a brand in the US called Daiya which is also a great branded alternative, however this is more difficult to find in the U.K.

Vegan cheeses are a fantastic alternative when going dairy free and there is absolutely no casein added. Give them a go and really try to get used to them because they are a much healthier alternative.

2) For a “cheesy flavour”: Nutritional Yeast aka Nooch. 

One of my personal favourites.

  

 Nutritional yeast is de-activated yeast, not to be confused with baking yeast, which gives your meals a cheesy flavour. You can sprinkle it on pasta, toast, baked potatoes and into soups or sauces. It’s a parmesan style addition to a meal and packed with Vitamin B12 (an essential addition to a Vegan diet).

 3) For a creamy, cheesy sauce: Tahini

 

 Used with nutritional yeast or simply on its own, tahini is a fantastic way to create a creamy, cheese like sauce. Used in most of my pasta sauces, tahini is a staple in my kitchen. Simply stir in your desired amount into your pasta sauce (I normal use about 1tbsp) or you can make a dressing with it too.

 Tahini is great combined with soy sauce, lemon and garlic. Add some water for a thinner consistency and it can used on salad or on potatoes (thicker consistency is better here). Another way I like to use tahini is on toast! It’s a staple that you will need in your home. Think of it as a cheese spread replacement.

  4) Get creative in the kitchen.

      

In other words, try making foods other than cheese based foods. There is such an array of foods in the world that meals don’t always have to revolve around cheese. Thai foods, Indian foods, Chinese, Mediterranean and more. The world’s cuisine has so much more to offer than cheese, you just have to experiment more. 

An increase of flavours and textures will have you so satisfied that you won’t need to be reaching for the Cheddar and the grater!

 To summarise: 

 Cheese is an addictive food. To break your cheese habit it can take up to three weeks and it can be done. I know that due to the addictiveness some people may really struggle to give up cheese completely but at least give it a go. If you are trying your hardest to be vegan and cheese is the only component of it that you can’t do then don’t beat yourself up about it! You want something that is manageable long term and if the only food you can’t let go of is cheese then so be it. However, do not give up. Research is clear that a plant-based vegan diet is the healthiest way to live and can eliminate disease and illness.

Take your time in making the transition; the more you reduce your intake the easier it will be to give it up in the long run. As you experience the health benefits of a plant-based diet and how fantastic you feel, gradually the desire for “real cheese” will go away. Every small step makes a huge difference so stick with it and do your very best!

Top 5 Vegan Breakfast Ideas

Top 5 Vegan Breakfast Ideas

Top 5 Vegan Breakfast Ideas !

As a really young child I remember my Mum always saying to me, “Please Hannah, just eat a piece of fruit at least”. I guess this was engrained into me and now I would never leave the house without eating something.

My breakfasts tend to be sweet, fruity and nutrient packed. Here I share 5 great options which will appeal to everyone and anyone. Whether you have 5 minutes in the morning or 30, there is an option for you. Get creative and really try to introduce a meal to your morning, if you don’t already. For some people I know it is difficult but start off slowly and gradually you will be waking up ready for breakfast!

So why is breakfast so important?

Breakfast literally means “to break the fast”. Overnight  our bodies work hard to digest the food from the previous night. In the process of this our body uses it’s main source of fuel, carbohydrates. As a result, our glucose levels can be low when we wake. Glucose (also known as our blood sugars) is the fuel our bodies need to power our muscles and brain. When we eat breakfast this restores our glucose levels, kick starts our metabolism and re-fuels us for the morning ahead. Research suggests that skipping breakfast can result in our body tapping into our energy reserve; in extreme cases this includes energy that is stored in our muscles. All of this results in low energy and lack of concentration, commonly leading on to unhealthy food choices later in the day.

Have a look at some of the options below and I hope you start to love breakfasts like I do. If you do already then I hope this gives you a few more ideas!

Breakfast #1

Smoothies and Nicecream.

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Smoothies are fantastic for when you are in a hurry. They are incredibly satisfying, filling, delicious and transportable. Take them in the car with you, into work, on route to school. Whatever it may be, they are a quick and nutritionally packed breakfast. Simply blend together: liquid of choice (plant based milk, water, coconut water), greens (spinach or kale), a high energy fruit (banana or mango), soft sweet fruits (berries of any kind, pineapple, papaya, kiwi fruit) and an optional extra (protein powders, nuts and seeds). This combination of fruits, greens and healthy fats are a brilliant way to start the day, replenishing all your glycogen stores and more!

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Nicecream is similar to a smoothie but has the consistency of ice cream. These are amazing if you have more time in the morning as they take longer to consume. Simply blend up some frozen bananas with a little milk of choice, or wait for them to thaw for approx. 15minutes. Add into the blender variations of flavours such as:

  • vanilla
  • peanut butter / almond butter
  • soft fruit of choice: mango, kiwi, berries, papaya, passion fruit
  • healthy extras: super greens, hemp, maca, cacao, baobab

When blended into an ice-cream consistency, spoon into a bowl and top with crunchy topping (granola, chia seeds, goji berries, coconut, etc).

Breakfast #2

Oats.

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Oats are super versatile. What I love about them is that they are packed with fibre and keep you full for such a long period of  time. They are a low GI food meaning they release carbohydrates slowly into the body and help maintain glucose levels. You can make so many different variations so that you never get bored and they can be eaten hot or cold! That is correct, oats are great eaten cold and this means you can eat them on the go if you need to.

Some hot oat combinations could be:

  • banana, almond/ peanut butter, maple syrup, milk of choice
  • grated apple, raisins and cinnamon, milk of choice
  • berries, sweetener of choice, plant based milk

The recipes are endless and I’m sure each individual has their own personal favourites.

Eaten cold, soak oats overnight in plant based milk combined with your choice of extras: fresh berries, nut butter, apple, coconut, chia seeds, dried fruits, cinnamon, etc. For fresh fruits that brown, such as banana and apple, add these in the morning for optimal freshness.

Breakfast #3

Toast.

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Who doesn’t love toast? As long as you are eating a high fibre content bread and choosing healthy toppings, it is a great way to start your day. Opt for Rye, Wholegrain and Brown Sourdough for slow release carbohydrates and easy digestion. Toppings are endless but some easy, delicious ideas would be:

  • banana and nut butter (optional: coconut, chia seeds, cinnamon, berries)
  • avocado and tomato
  • nut butter and berries
  • tofu scramble (tofu cooked with tomatoes, greens, onion, soy sauce or spices)
  • baked beans
  • mushrooms
  • hummus and vegetable of choice: cucumber or tomato

 

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Breakfast #4

Pancakes.

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Slightly controversial as a “health food” but when made vegan these ARE healthy! The ingredients are the same as a bowl of porridge: oats, banana and plant based milk. This is a simple 3 ingredient recipe which can be varied adding in spices (cinnamon, mixed spice, nutmeg), flavourings (vanilla, almond, cacao, coconut), nuts, etc. But for simple recipe ideas follow: 1 cup oats, 1 banana, 1 cup plant based milk. Blend all in a blender and make into pancakes; its that simple. For a thicker style pancake add in 1 + 1/2 cups of oats instead. Top with fresh fruits, maple syrup, honey, nuts and seeds.

These are definitely a treat I would say, but they are an option for a special day, or weekend winner.

Breakfast #5

Cereals.

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If you are more of a cereal kind of person then cereal is an option. Make sure the cereal is as natural as possible, great ingredients, high in fibre and wholegrains, and as little refined sugar content as you can find. I personally don’t eat cereal but I know that many people do, and for some this is the only option suitable at present.

Shredded Wheat is a popular UK choice and as for ingredients it is pretty good. Try health food shops for natural cereals such as: muesli, popped quinoa, puffed rice etc. When topping your cereals opt for fresh berries, banana and a plant based milk.

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These are a variety of options for you all to try and enjoy. I hope this has given you ideas and options to try. Like I said, I know some people do struggle to get a meal down them in the morning but start slow. Smoothies are a fantastic idea as you can vary your quantities. If that isn’t for you, try with a piece of fruit or slice of toast and nut butter. You will build a habit and introduce your body to eating in the morning. Once you build up to a full meal you wont look back again. Your energy will be optimised, you will think clearer and you will kick start your metabolism for the entire day.

Don’t be afraid to eat breakfast. For all current breakfast lovers, I hope this has helped give you ideas too!

Until next time,

Have a great week!

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