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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.

 

Vegan Egg Replacements

Vegan Egg Replacements

Vegan Egg Replacements

As you transition into a vegan/ plant-based diet there will be obstacles you’ll come across which can leave you stuck. As I speak to more and more people about problems they’re coming across I have found that for some people giving up eggs is difficult. Eggs are a quick meal and high in protein which is good for filling you up. However, eggs contain high levels of cholesterol and zero fibre. Research into eggs have even compared eating eggs as bad a smoking cigarettes due to the plaque build up in arteries they produce.

Unfortunately, in the food industry there isn’t much on the market that can replicate the taste of egg. Fried eggs and poached eggs simply can not be replaced at present, however scrambled eggs and omelette have a similar plant-based alternative. As for baking, this is an easy transition that won’t effect your bakes.

 

For cooking

Tofu.

The stereotypical “vegan food”. Tofu is the closest and cheapest you can get to scrambled eggs or an eggy taste and texture.

To scramble simply mash the tofu in a pan and cook with soy sauce to bring out the flavour. You can also add in: spices, turmeric for colour, spring onion, tomatoes, mushrooms etc. Cook as you would normally do your scramble.

To note: tofu comes in a packet of water which needs to be drained and rinsed off. For cubing tofu you need to pat dry the tofu and dry it out; instructions will be on packet.

Tofu is great when cubed and put into main meals but for this you need a firm tofu as typical tofu crumbles easily (better for scramble) You can buy tofu pre-marinated if this is an easier option for you.

VeganEgg.

Personally I have never tried this and it’s not something that appeals to me. However I have known people to use it and opinion varies. VeganEgg can be used for omelettes and scrambled egg and it tries to replicate the taste of real eggs.

The downsides to this product are:

1. It it is very expensive for the amount of product that you get. Online it will cost you around £7 plus delivery!
3. It is hard to come across unless you purchase online. However it is sold in SOME health food stores.
4. It is an egg replacer meaning they have tried to replicate the taste and texture the best they can, consequently the ingredients reflect that.

The plus side of this product is that you get a close replication of egg and the most similar you’ll possibly find. It all depends on how much you miss real eggs and if you’re able to go without them.

For baking.

Banana

Simply use 1 banana to replace 1 egg. Mash into your baked goods and pancakes too!

Flaxegg and Chiaegg

Flaxmeal

As a binder for baked goods flaxsmeal is brilliant. Combine 1 part flaxmeal to 3 parts water. 1 tbsp flaxmeal + 3 tbsp water equivocates to 1 egg. Combine and wait ten minutes for the mixture to go gooey, then use as you would egg.

Chia seeds

Exactly as above. 1 part chia to 3 parts water. 1tbsp chia seeds + 3tbsp water = 1 egg. Leave to get sticky for approximately 10 minutes.

This should hopefully make your life easier as you transition to a vegan / plant-based lifestyle. The more you research into the egg industry and the health consequences, it should be enough to cut them out of you diet. I ate eggs on a regular basis before going vegan and although I missed their convenience initially I could never eat them again knowing what I know now. I really hope this helps you out and if you’re still sceptical then just research, research, research. The more you know the better you’ll feel.

 

Popular UK restaurants offering Vegan options.

Popular UK restaurants offering Vegan options.

Popular UK restaurants offering Vegan options.

There are so many restaurants here in the UK that offers vegan options now. When I lived in America the options were extremely limited unless I went to vegan specific restaurants. Lucky for us we do have many chain restaurants now which offer vegan options.

Most restaurants if you call beforehand will offer you a vegan option or you have to alter a dish on their menu to veganise it. For example: veggie pizza without cheese (check base is dairy free), tomato based pastas without meat or cheese. Be careful with veggie burgers as many have egg to combine the patty. You just have to play around with the menu and ask the staff questions.

See below to see which popular UK restaurants offer a vegan option without chopping and changing the ingredients.

Restaurants:

Nando’s.

Offering salads and veggie burgers, you just have to ask for no cheese and no mayo!

Wagamamas.

The only set vegan option on the main menu is the Yasai Itame. The vegetable dumplings to start are vegan as well as vegetables and edamame. If you ask the staff they will accommodate for you on the mains by leaving out fish sauce or swapping your choice of noodles, for example.

Las Iguana’s.

I was happy to see that Las Iguanas offer a separate vegetarian / vegan menu. I’ve had the fajitas before, although they were quite oily. Great to have an array of vegan options though.

Jamie’s Italian.

With vegan options plus the option to veganise a meal, Jamie’s Italian is great. The only thing I’d mention is that the Aubergine main dish is pretty small so just be warned.

Zizzi 

Zizzi has kicked it out of the bag with their new all vegan menu. Started, mains and desserts all deduced to healthy vegan choices. They even have vegan cheese! That is dedication from Zizzi’s; I salute you.

Toby Carvery  

A carvery which offers a vegan nut roast!! This had me really excited. Just be careful to avoid any vegetables cooked in butter.

JD Weatherspoon

With it’s own separate vegan menu you can’t go wrong.

Pizza Express

With their own specific vegan pizza that alone is great. However all their bases are dairy free so hop and change ingredients as you wish, and of course, hold the cheese.

Carluccios

Another fantastic Italian restaurant offering a desperate vegan menu.

Giraffe 

I know they offer a vegan breakfast which is fantastic as you don’t see this often. As for mains they have a couple of options but not a separate menu.

On the go

All supermarkets offer vegan food so when you’re on the go these are an easy option. Opt for the salad isle and get the tubs of quinoa salads, bean salads, couscous, nut salad etc. They have so many options you just need to know where to look. In the “on-the-move” section it has little variety but if you check the salads section you will be fine. For snacks you can always go in and grab some loose fruit too or possibly a raw foods bar.

Check below for some more on the go options so you’re not stuck when you’re on the move.

Cafés:

Pret-a-manger 

Offering an array of vegan options, Pret is a great go to. From salads to sandwiches to dessert!

Starbucks

Limited on choices but do offer a salad option and wrap if you’re lucky!

The West Cornish Pasty Co

A Cornish pasty that’s vegan? The West Cornish Pasty Co offer two pasties: vegetarian and wholemeal. If you like a pasty then it’s great to know this!

Eat. 

I only discovered this over the Summer time but was very pleased to see more than one vegan option. Sandwiches plus hot food! This alongside a nice hot latte is a great on the go stop.

 

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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