Wellness

It’s time to quit coffee

An obsession. A ritual. This is how we’ve labelled coffee.
Well the time has come and we’ve decided to shake the morning routine (the caffeinated part at least) and quit coffee. Like many, our mornings consist of certain routines and one of them was a jug of freshly roasted filter coffee. Ooh the taste, the smell and if you buy decent freshly roasted beans, it really is a nice treat! But people function quite normally without the ‘energy’ hit of coffee in the mornings.

A decision was made: we needed time out. Our autopilot mode of turning on the filter jug machine and waiting for the aroma to spread around the home was making us feel ‘automatic’.

Why give up something you love, you’re already healthy people? Everything in moderation?

I’m confused either way, is it good for you or bad? It definitely feels as though coffee in the morning and a wine with dinner is an unhealthy cycle – one fuelling the other even in small quantities. Regular coffee drinking everyday, means we’re hooked, just one, two or three cups. Not good.
OK so we braced ourselves, quitting coffee meant the headaches were waiting just around the corner to lure us back into that habit!

It’s a Thursday and I’m off to Edinburgh for a couple of days work.
We’re committing – our coffee supplies are finished and the old filter jug (which has done some mileage) is in the rubbish bin. By late morning the forehead aching had begun, foggy concentration and tiredness. Has this been a wise choice? Keep it going they say – only lasts a few days right? A few days later had passed, and it’s now just tea in the mornings – Charlotte was the first to decide ‘NO, i’m either in or out’. And seeing as it’s definitely working for me, I’m taking that route too.
Wanna quit coffee? Read on some more

quit coffee

We’re continually reminded of the ‘benefits’ and ‘hazards’ of coffee, you can quite easily google them, we’re just sharing our experience here.
Here’s a quick fact anyway: the drug caffeine actually makes up only around 1 or 2% of the bean itself, hmm.

Anyway I must admit, I still enjoy the smell – you can’t really escape it working in an office environment, but the benefits of not drinking are becoming apparent:

  • No yearning for a stimulant each day to get you going, mentally that feels quite liberating.
  • If you’re having one of those hectic mornings at home, I found sometimes my cuppa was being gulped and not actually ‘enjoyed’!
  • Definitely starting to notice the body’s own energy kick in as the fatigue in the afternoon has slowly disappeared.
  • My stomach’s appreciating no more of that harsh acidic hot liquid, let’s be honest a tea or hot lemon water is more gentle!
  • We have no dependance on coffee and it’s availability whenever going outside the home – travel/appointments etc.
  • It’s a money saver – good coffee (especially in the UK) isn’t cheap!

TIP: Have some Swiss-Water decaf in the house, you’ll get the great smell and lovely taste without the hit! This will help you a lot, trust us – we did it.
😉

See, we’re not that unkind.

What we wouldn’t advise:

  • Going cold turkey if you’re really into your coffee on a huge scale – go easy, cut down to a good single cup per day or the withdrawals will be just hell and you may not continue. You can then progress from there.
  • Cutting out the coffee if you’re just about to travel for pleasure/business and you could do with sorting that temporary jet lag out, keep it moderate. You’re in control remember.

So why? Here’s some good reasons to kick it – even if it’s for only a month!

  • The caffeine in coffee can increase stress hormones, and if you’re prone to stress and/or anxiety it could really help you manage this considerably by cutting it out.
  • The acidity can cause digestive discomfort.
  • Essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium have been known to be excreted through the urine of coffee drinkers…
  • It makes you dehydrated. Aren’t we all supposed to be drinking more water anyway?
  • The urges are only temporary – so don’t get too bogged down with how you feel in those first couple of days.
  • Having a couple of weeks off resets your caffeine tolerance, so if you introduce it again – you can be gradual, and of course moderate.

A healthy replacement habit if you’re not doing so already is clearly…tea.

  • We feel much healthier drinking tea.
  • Why? Because it’s lighter in taste and caffeine (unless it’s caffeine-free altogether).
  • Tea is calmer and a more gentle way to enter each new day, the morning is such a sacred time where nature’s waking with you – treat that moment with a calming drink.
  • It’s satisfying and makes you feel strong, clear headed and prepared – you’re now using your body’s own energy.

Summary:
To continue or not? It’s going very well, so why break the new habit. The smell of coffee will be missed but this is a good thing now we have which has taken some willpower to earn.
Coffee-free mornings are now the new habit in our home.
Coffee lovers, have a go and try a month. Or quit coffee altogether… 😉

Go Plant Based – Get Healthier, Happier + Richer!

Who doesn’t want to be healthy, happier, richer?
I do, and it’s too easy ‘cos all you gotta do is get involved with some plants. Plant based food rocks and you don’t have to be a full blown vegan to get stuck in. It’s all about the small steps and anyway, life’s a journey hey? By adding a few extra veggies into our daily diets we’d all get a bit happier, a little healthier and life would be good…..man. Seriously, eating less meat and more plants is easier than you think.

There really is no reason to miss meat when there are endless tasty and exciting ways to create truly amazing food entirely from plants and whole foods. This is not about recreating, substituting or missing meat but rather a way to enjoy a world of plant based nutrition and making any recipe work! Being a vegan shouldn’t (and doesn’t) mean you’re missing out – quite the opposite really. It’s an opportunity to try something completely different, discover new flavours, experiment and share new meals safe in the knowledge that you are doing yourself the world of good. If you are just starting out on a plant based diet it can be a struggle at first but here are a few of my suggestions to make life easier and to offer a little inspiration.

Going plant based:

  • Learn to love your beans and of course lentils too! I’m bean mad and urge you to experiment with them. Beans are amazing in casseroles, curry, bakes, lasagnes, dips and of course most veggie burgers are bean based. There’s such a variety out there, why not try a different bean each week until you find your favourite? My top two are haricot and black turtle beans. A mexican is never complete without black beans.
  • Red, green + yellow lentils = staple store cupboard ingredient. The humble lentil has a bad rep but they are deliciously creamy and carry taste better than anything else. They’re perfect for replacing minced meat in Italian and Greek dishes and a sturdy foundation for a veggie burger. You can easily replace meat ingredients with lentils. They work a treat in lasagnes, shepherds pie too and a marriage made in heaven in curry.
  • Fancy that pumpkin sausage casserole? Why not replace the sausages with the meaty texture of chestnuts, portobello mushrooms, butter beans or simply replace with use some veggie sausages.
  • Mushrooms not only have that all important umami flavour but have that ‘meaty’ texture. There’s such a variety in the supermarkets these days just waiting for some experimentation. Pulse them up or slice them to imitate slithers of meat in a casserole or pasta sauce for that deep, rich flavour.
  • Tofu. Drain and press (with a heavy weight) for several hours to minimise water content. Slice into quarter inch strips add a robust sauce and bake. This is a great way to utilise an otherwise tasteless product. Tofu is fantastic not only in stir fries, curries and baked versions but is brilliant for making sweet treats like cheesecakes and mousses. Tempeh, Seitan (gluten wheat powder) is great for making veggie sausages and equal protein to lean meat. I’m not a huge fan of faux meat products but they can be a good solution if you’re struggling every now and then.
  • Use FLAVOUR to enhance your meals! Strong and distinctive flavours are the best way to adapt your recipes and create deeply rich layered flavours. I find that smoked paprika is perfect for replacing chorizo and a great way to add a rich Spanish flavour. Liquid smoke gives a fabulously smokey tastes to salads, beans, burgers sausages, dips, well anything really. Try it! Also, dried fruit and preserved lemons are great for creating that authentic North African and Middle Eastern flavour in stews and tagines. Indian food utilises an array of rich, warm and healing spices that lend themselves fantastically to vegan food. Veggie friendly umami flavours, chipotle, smoked paprika, harissa, garam masala. Of course the vegan umami flavours; mushrooms, fermented foods, sea vegetables, tamari and tomatoes are key in creating that all key satisfying flavour.
  • Just leave the meat out and use more of an alternative ingredient. Don’t sweat the whole protein (most people actually get way over recommended daily amounts, even by eating JUST veggies) thing anyway but if you’re concerned about levels just add some nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, quinoa or dairy alternatives to cheese. Anyway, what about some scrambled tofu……
  • Get bang into blogs. There’s lots of easy veggie recipes for endless inspiration in the blogosphere.
  • Just let your creative side take over and get involved. Fill your plate with colourful produce and creative dishes. Some of my favourite meals have been on the spot, open the fridge and make it up as you go!

plant based
Converting to a plant based diet is a wonderful opportunity to experiment with flavours and get in touch with our creative sides whilst getting healthy and reducing harm to our environment and of course, the animals.

Can you believe I’d never even purchased smoked paprika, liquid smoke, chipotle chilis or nutritional yeast (the list is endless) before I went veggie. Gosh, I really was missing out! So if you haven’t already added a few meatless meals to your week, challenge yourself and see how easy, delicious and feel good it really is. Peace 😉

Being Pregnant + Vegan

healthy diet pregnancy
Pregnancy has been harder than I thought what with the weight gain, nausea and numerous other weird physical side effects (!) but I tell you something, it’s that much harder being pregnant AND vegan! Like really hard. Not in a diet and ‘oh geez, what can I eat?’ way but in a socially acceptable way. I truly wasn’t prepared for the amount of questioning I’d receive with regards to my diet, my baby and the absence of meat and dairy in my diet. It’s been a little like this:

‘So, now that you’re pregnant are you eating meat?’

‘What about milk, you need calcium for the baby?’

Are you still a vegan now you’re expecting?’

No, I know and Yes.

I admit, I’ve struggled the past few months with these questions and although I know people only mean well, I can’t help but feel annoyed and at times a little like public property! Of course I answer politely and tell them I get plenty of calcium from alternative sources etc but the look of uncertainty is all the proof I need that they just don’t get it.

The thing is, I know about food, about nutrition, I’m kinda sensible and I’m a bit of a research nerd so naturally I did my homework on a plant based pregnancy. I know what I’m doing, it’s everyone else that’s doubtful, and there lies the problem. The other day was a particularly busy one for questioning, like 3 people asked me straight out whether I was still a ‘veggie’ at a team meeting in between congratulations. I’m pretty steadfast, I have the necessary knowledge but there’s only so much you can take before you start to doubt yourself and go home to calculate your calcium intake for that day, your protein for the week and the iron content of your lunch. I’ll send a text to Russ relaying all of this, to be greeted by his response of reassurance followed by my own realisation that I really do know the facts and that I’m doing the best for my baby.

My recent scan showed everything is progressing nicely with baby being the perfect size for her weeks. I am not deficient in anything, have bundles of energy and my weight gain is bang on target!

I refuse to measure nutrient levels and weigh absolutely anything (well except when baking, lol!), believe it’s completely unnecessary and why should I anyway? My body isn’t lacking a single nutrient, I look and feel full of energy and my baby is happy and healthy. I believe this is because I eat REAL food. Nobody seems to comment or judge the mum to be who drinks diet coke, eats KFC and a large bag of haribo but rather they are reassured they are eating for two and to enjoy it whilst they can!

Diets, especially during pregnancy are pretty personal and very individual and the following is what works for me but everybody is different, thank goodness 😉 Above everything, knowledge sure is power.

Here’s what I’ve been doing since being pregnant:

1. I have gone ORGANIC. Or partly organic. I try to at least buy the dirty dozen all organic alongside staples such as bread, nuts and oats. This change will stick with me, less chemicals is never a bad thing.

2. I have increased my intake of healthy FATS at each meal particularly oiive oil, nut butters, avocados, nuts, seeds, tahini, vegan cheeses. I find this alone has helped me feel more satiated and given me a level energy throughout the day.

3. I make sure I eat CALCIUM rich foods daily and it’s really quite a breeze on a plant based diet. I personally maintain healthy levels by eating the following: green leafy veg such as broccoli, kale, spinach and cabbage (did you know there’s more calcium in a cup of collard greens than in 1 cup of milk), fortified nut milks such as almond or coconut that contain 30% RDA in 200 ml, tahini which provides 10% RDA in just 1 tablespoon, molasses to sweeten, fortified oatmeal (Ready Brek) provides an excellent source too with a large bowl containing a whopping 60% RDA, an orange a day because I just love them, a handful almonds whenever I’m peckish, chickpeas / any pulse really (20% RDA in 1 cup) in a stew/curry or hummus and fortified wholemeal breads.

4. I have upped my IRON intake a little too by making sure I eat a wide selection of iron rich foods throughout the day including sweet potatoes, raisins, dates, figs, prunes, molasses, peas, artichokes, dark leafy greens, spirulina in smoothies, pumpkin, all whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans, beans and more beans.  At least once a day I’ll try to have a food rich in vitamin C alongside iron rich foods such as baked beans and sweet potato to improve the iron absorption. Oh and chocolate too – a 3 oz. portion of cooked ground beef (70% lean meat, 30% fat) contains 2.11 mg of iron, while 3 oz. of dark chocolate boasts 10.12 mg.

5. I drink way more WATER. This has made a HUGE difference to my digestion and energy levels and I just know that 3 litres a day makes a big difference to my wellbeing and my baby’s too.

6. Dear old PROTEIN and where d’ya get it from!  Well I aim for a little more than before, about 70 grams per day. It’s easy as hell to get enough protein as a vegan if you cook real foods so I just keep a mindful eye on making sure I get some quality protein in at each meal from my favourite sources, including greens (most people don’t think of greens as punching much of a protein punch but they really do), nuts, seeds especially hemp, lentils, beans (15 grams in 1 cup!), nut milks, sprouted grain breads, oats, quinoa, cocoa (yeah really!) and occasionally Quorn. I don’t sweat this protein lark as other people do, that’s enough for me!

7. I have VICES. Beer and coffee. No more beer but I still drink coffee, just two cups in the morning and refrain from caffeine for the remainder of the day.

8. I take a general pregnancy SUPPLEMENT as advised by my midwife such as Pregnacare and also a B12 supplement.

So I pretty much eat the same foods I ate before, but at the start of my pregnancy I made sure to take a closer look to ensure I was covering all bases. I believe my body (and midwife!) will tell me if something’s up and I plan to continue eating a whole foods plant based diet for the reminder of my pregnancy and after that too.

Some light reading:

http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/veganpregnancy.php

http://www.vegansociety.com/lifestyle/parenting/vegan-babies-and-children/pregnancy.aspx

https://www.vegsoc.org/

http://www.vegkitchen.com/nutrition/vegetarian-pregnancy/

Running During Pregnancy + Reasons to Continue

Running is definitely a big part of my life, I really do LOVE it. I’ve been running for 11 plus years with a 39 minute 10K and a 3.04 Marathon time under my belt. So although I’m no Paula or Kara, I was still pretty good for an amatuer. I say ‘was’ because I really don’t feel like the same girl, the girl that popped on her running shoes for a pre-work 40 minute 6 minute mile paced run. The girl who jumped on the treadmill to race Russ on a 5K time trial! It’s all very different now and I don’t even know if i’ll be as good as I was again.

running pregnant

 

I knew things would change when I got pregnant, and being a worrier I have done a hell of a lot of research into the effects of moderate exercise, specifically running when pregnant. I have found nothing that concerns me whatsoever but rather have been inspired by other pregnant runners and the major health benefits that remaining fit and healthy throughout pregnancy brings with it. Of course I’ve had to make changes and adapt to my changing body but keeping up with running has kept me sane and healthy in my first 5 months! Well almost……I’m pregnant after all!

Here’s how I’ve continued to run:

I mentioned it to both my doctor and midwife. Both were happy for me to continue.

I’ve had to explain to the worriers. So some people are really shocked by a pregnant runner whilst others are like, ‘oh cool’. This is pretty hard when you know you are doing nothing but good for yourself and baby and a few people remain concerned and sometimes alarmed! So to the worriers I explain how slow I now run, that I’d never push myself, how good it is for me and baby and that it really IS healthy. No one’s spat on me yet as I’ve jogged on by, lol!

My Goals have shifted big time. It’s no longer about the times and the fitness but rather the fresh air, endorphins, blood flow and pure enjoyment of getting out there. No GPS needed.

Gosh I’ve slowed down! To be honest I could still run a lot faster than I am but it’s like a mental running block, I just can’t and won’t go my old pace and don’t believe that would be healthy for me or my baby. Anyway there’s been something rather liberating about just running for the sheer fun of it with no timers and no measurements whilst just taking it all in.

During the first month or so of pregnancy I was running pretty much my average times but after 6 weeks or so I slowed to an 8 minute per mile pace and at 5 months I’m now averaging 8.5-9 minute miles. For me this feels right but of course everyone’s different. I can still chat rubbish as I run and generally enjoy the time I spend outside in the mornings but still have that post exercise endorphin rush. Winner.

I diitched the watch- it was hard seeing my time go slooooooooooower and slooooooooooooooower so I quit timing and all that. It’s been so much more enjoyable.

I cross train more often- I don’t feel like I can or want to run as much as my former pregnant self did but I enjoy the cross trainer, walking, yoga and resistance as an alternative.

I make sure I stretch and do those pelvic floor exercises- I am so paranoid about peeing myself that I am actually pretty good at doing these and stretching post run helps with lower back pain and wards off extra soreness too.

I go with how I feel- if it doesn’t feel right or I’m way too tired, I don’t run.

running pregnant Utah

I’ve learnt to let go. Let go of being fast, catching other runners up, racing when I want and looking like a runner. Russ is racing a 10K with my brother at the end of April and I’m only a tiny bit jealous.

I’m now at that point where I need a bigger bra. I’ll be purchasing a new one asap as my ‘new’ boobs are making running a lot harder for me!

Some people think pregnancy is a time for relaxing and slowing sown and I’m one of those people which is why I still run. It’s therapy to me, it’s me time, fun time and at times bliss but there are so many other reasons to keep active whilst pregnant and these are mine:

Why I run during pregnancy?

  • Because above all I’m a runner and with a few adaptations I can continue safely.
  • Maintaining my fitness has positive effects not only throughout pregnancy but for labour too.
  • It’s good for heart, circulatory, digestive and mental health and a healthy Mum = a healthy little one.
  • Endorphins! I have given up my coffee habit, a few weekend beers, the odd glass of wine and I refuse to give up running albeit a slowed down version of my former self. Running simply makes my head feel great.
  • SLEEP- my sleep is not like it used to be pre-pregnancy and the difference in sleep quality and length between run and non-run days is unbelievable.
  • Circulation- although running has a myriad of health benefits I specifically have noticed how my body feels mighty sluggish since I’ve been pregnant and running has been my saviour for a better digestion and overall feeling.
  • Fresh air and bonding time with my baby. I really do feel quite connected to her while I am running in the early morning peace and quiet.
  • Energy- sounds funny but on run days I’m more energised for the day ahead.
  • Reduces the excess weight gain, cellulite and varicose veins that pregnancy seems to bring with it!

 

running pregnant
Running is really working for me so far and as long as it remains painless, I’m injury free, at a healthy weight and my baby’s growth targets are on track, I’ll continue to do so. Similarly, when she’s here I will continue to run as it truly does make me a better and nicer person and I believe I’ll be a better Mum for it.

 

7 Cheers for Chia Seeds – a Weight Loss Weapon

Chia Seeds 5This chia seed craze isn’t going anywhere soon, it’s here to stay. I’ve had many a fleeting affair with the latest in vogue food, some working out and others not. Sorry goji berries, it’s not you, it’s me. With chia it’s different…….I am fully committed to the humble chia seed, it won’t enter my life for a few weeks of dabbling only to be pushed to the back of the cupboard, lonely and forgotten! Chia has a firm place in my kitchen and has made itself very comfortable.

I wasn’t at first convinced when my first bag of chia arrived and as they bounced along my kitchen work top I couldn’t help but think these tiny seeds seemed a bit, well small and fiddly. And anyway, how could such a tiny seed contain so much goodness? So much goodness.

Chia is yet another amazingly nutritious food from the superfood continent South America (quinoa, maca, lucuma, cocoa nibs- why do they have all the best ingredients?). Anyhow, first recipe in I really liked them but I loved them a whole lot more when I learnt about their nutritional attributes and impressive versatility within plant based recipes. Chia doesn’t have a truly distinct flavour  but it has a unique consistency when combined with liquid, providing an excellent base to add your own flavour and experiment with your favourite ingredients. I like to think of chia as a powerhouse nutritional canvas to get creative with! Chia + liquid = very swollen seeds and a consistency that resembles tapioca pudding, all part of it’s secret weight regulating powers.

There’s a whole lot more to these Aztec wonder seeds and there’s very good reason(s) why they’re one of the big players in the realms of wellness. Here’s 7 of them:

  1. High in fibre so excellent for digestive function. Most of us could use more fibre and these contain a third of our daily requirements in just 2 tablespoons. We all know that a fibre rich diet keeps us fuller for longer, enabling us to maintain a healthy weight and beat cravings. These seeds swell to 10 times their original size when combined with water form a gel high in soluble fibre, which fills the stomach and satiates. Naturally, this fuller feeling reduces tendencies to over eat, so chia’s a weapon to any weight loss eating regime.
  2. A remarkable amount of antioxidants. Go away free radicals, ageing and cancer. Such high levels give chia a lengthy shelf life of up to 2 years.
  3. Calcium. Who needs dairy when you can get 1/5 of your daily needs from just 2 tablespoons, 5 times more than milk. These powerhouse seeds also contain sizeable amounts of magnesium and phosphorus.
  4. Good source of Protein. Made up of 30 % complete protein, containing all 9 amino acids in proper ratios,  they certainly give meat products a run for their money!
  5. No Gluten. Enough said.
  6. Brilliant egg replacer for plant based recipes. Mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 of water and leave for 10 minutes to thicken.
  7. One of the richest plant based sources of omega 3’s. In fact it contains 8 times more than salmon so is super for heart and brain health.

Bonus: I find chia helps fight fatigue, keeps me energised for longer and less likely to have late afternoon lethargy. I’m a recreational runner and find I am recovering quicker post exercise. Chia is a runner’s best friend.

So get cracking with an easy, feel good, filling chia pudding, a chia studded smoothie, sprinkle on cereal or make your own egg substitute.
Vanilla chia pudding

Start the day in spectacular fashion by making a yummy chia pudding!

Let’s all chia up!

Simple 2 Step Cashew Cream – Time to Ditch the Dairy!

Unadulterated cashew creamDelicious, nutty & creamy, no wonder it’s a vegan staple but you don’t have to be a vegan to get involved with cashew cream, I’m not and I love it! It’s perfect for those who follow a dairy free diet and crave a deliciously heavy dessert cream or perhaps a replacement for sour cream with a Mexican meal. The thing is, to call it a replacement is a disservice because it really is better than any single, double, whipped, sour or clotted cream I have ever had. It really is true. It’s super versatile too, I pour this on desserts, dress curries and tacos, stir through pasta, as a dip, on fruit, into ice cream, as a frosting or  just a dollop on cereals. This trumps dairy any day and I urge you to give it a go because it’s also gluten free, soy free and free of nasty hormones that so much dairy contains. Furthermore, it’s nourishing and spectacularly good for you with a taste that’s so creamy it’s hard to believe.Cream of cashew!

Of course it’s good for you too. Cashew nuts are high in heart protective monounsaturated-fats and lower you’re risk of heart related illness. They’re super high in copper and magnesium aiding bone health too. Cashews are filling and wont cause weight gain like sugar laden reduced fat creams. I promise, I eat this cream a lot and it’s a satisfying and nourishing way to beat cravings.Simply cashews

It’s so simple too, soak the cashews overnight, drain and add the few ingredients to the blender. That’s simplicity. All you need to do is adjust the water quantity for the consistency you desire. For desserts I prefer a thicker whipped cream but for sauces I aim for a pouring consistency. The cashews need to be un-roasted and personally I buy cashew pieces as they’re half the price –  it’s all heading for the blender in the end!

Cashew cream in two easy steps

An added bonus is you can enjoy this in a savoury or sweet version? It can be sweetened up with maple syrup and vanilla for the most delicious dessert cream. The choices for savoury are endless and one of my favourites is roasted garlic and sun dried tomatoes,  it’s pretty special but I’m pretty happy with these unadulterated versions. I swear it’s impossible to make this without eating a heaping tablespoon of dripping cashew cream straight from the blender. I challenge you!

Here is the basic recipe. Have lots of fun mixing it up!

Cashew cream in a mason jar

Cashew cream

1 cup cashews
1 cup, water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Sweet version

1 cup plain cashews
1 cup water
2 tablespoons maple syrup or your favoured sweetener
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt

Method:

1. Soak the cashews overnight in water.
2. Drain the cashews and add to the blender with the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth.

Note: Adjust water quantity for desired consistency.