Thursday, 28 June 2012

Naturally good for you

Having slightly fallen off the wagon at the weekend, and feeling the effects, I'm back on my detox avoiding gluten, dairy, caffeine, meat, seafood, fish, sugar and artificial additives as well as added salt.

If this makes it sound tricky to choose what to eat there is an easy way to think about it - which is to eat food in as natural a form as possible.

For example, a boiled new potato looks the same as a potato pulled out the ground and is the healthiest option. A crisp looks much less like this, but if it's a kettle chip may still look potatoesque. A potato smilie looks nothing like a potato and is the least healthy.

Even if you're not on a detox, choosing your food in the form closest to what it looks like in nature will mean you are also choosing it in it's most nutritious and healthy form, and missing out on lots of added anti-nutrients such as sugar and additives.

So next time you go food shopping ask yourself how close to it's natural form each item is ... Fresh fruit, veg and wholegrains as well as unprocessed fish should all pass the test, whilst chicken nuggets, biscuits and ice cream should all fail!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Holiday essentials

The weather may keep changing it's mind but hopefully most of you do have a nice summer holiday booked in warmer climes for some consistent sunshine.

If so then it's worth giving a bit of thought to your nutritional needs before and during your holiday.

Holidays might be nice and relaxing but both flying and exposure to sunshine cause a lot of free radical damage in the body which accelerates ageing, both inside and out.

To combat this you need plenty of antioxidants both during and after your holiday. The best sources are orange/red and blue/purple fruit and veg, so peppers, oranges, sweet potatoes, apricots, any kind of berries etc. Aim to have three different types a day and look for suncare products that include antioxidant vitamins such as Environ.

Also before you fly pickup a berry smoothie in the airport which makes a much healthier snack for the plane than a bag of salted pretzels and tops up your antioxidants for the flight.

In the heat and sun you and your skin can become easily dehydrated. To combat this I take an essential fat supplement for two weeks before my holiday to fortify the waterproof fatty cell walls, and then make sure I drink plenty of water whilst I'm away.

That can be tricky when you're travelling around and don't necessarily have a bathroom round every corner - if that's the case still sip water throughout the day but then as soon as you get to your hotel in the evening make sure you rehydrate properly.

The same applies for flying - staying hydrated during a longhaul flight can be challenging, make sure as soon as you're off that you drink plenty of water.

Being on holiday should be enjoyable so trying to follow your usual strict health regime isn't in the spirit of things, but having a splurge and indulging every meal can undo your good work pretty quickly.

Instead aim to have just one treat a day, whether it's a dessert, a couple of cocktails, a mid-afternoon ice cream or a big juicy steak for dinner. The rest of the time order healthily including a decent portion of fruit and/or veg at each meal. This usually means ordering salads. If there are no healthy carbs on offer -brown rice and new potatoes are unlikely, whilst chips and pasta seem to be ubiquitous, have a fruit salad for dessert or a fresh fruit smoothie for carbs.

Fresh fruit and unsalted unroasted nuts are also usually the best option snackwise but pack healthy snacks in your luggage if they won't be easily available where you're going. Food Doctor, Laar and Nakd bars are all good options

You'll likely be exposed to new bugs whilst you're away which you'll want your immune system to dispense with promptly. Taking probiotics can help, take them for two weeks in advance rather than just whilst you're on hols to give your digestive system a chance to get used to them.

For extra defence you could also take echinacea for two weeks prior to, and then during, your holiday to prime your immune system. Also make sure you pack your regular supplements, a good multi with an extra vitamin C tablet can go a long way to keeping you healthy and happy on holiday!


Monday, 25 June 2012

Muddy music

Greetings from the Isle of Wight festival! I type this ankle deep in mud, in leaky wellies (sorry mum I'll buy you a new pair)! But having a great time :-)

Despite horrendous showers overnight and the resulting swamp, it's actually been a pretty sunny experience with plenty of opportunities to nap in the sun between acts.

As well as napping, dancing and enjoying the music (who knew that hip hop rock was so good - check out Clement Marfo) I've also done my usual reckie of the food stands.

The usual unhealthy festival fair is available, but with some welcome new additions.

The Jamie Oliver tent got me all excited, but actually it was just roast meat sarnies so not me friendly. There was a dedicated vegan + veggie tent but after previous experiences with bland falafel we gave it a miss - still worth noting they sell dairy free hot drinks.

New additions worth a try were the risotto tent (dairy free for the allergic/intolerant) and 'coffee and cake' for their gluten free lemon polenta cupcakes (or dairy free banana and cinnamon).

However first place by a mile goes to Wagamamas for not just bringing their yummy food to festival but also their brilliant mini dance tent.

Once you've eaten your festival fair make sure you do some exercise to burn it off, although not straight after - vigorous dancing immediately after eating yasai katsu curry was not a good combination.

Obviously dancing and leaping around like a carefree hippy are the obvious choices but you can also head to the recharge zone and get peddling to recharge your iphone. I can also recommend mud wading as a good resistance thigh workout!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Sexy snacking

I may blog but I'm no tweeter .. mainly because I can't think of anyone who'd want to know my every thought, and also because I'm not sure I want to divulge the tweet level of personal info!

Still most celebrities don't have such qualms and provide both inane and entertaining thoughts and facts throughout their day ... I wonder what James Joyce would have made of it!

Nigella Lawson tweeted yesterday as she snacked: "Lying in bed eating rye toast topped with hazelnut butter and squares of dark, dark chocolate". She may or may not have been alone!

If you've ever seen her cook, you'll know that Nigella can make any food sexy, but her charms used to be reserved for her totally indulgent and unbelievably unhealthy recipes (I remember watching her once cook a pork joint in a whole 2 litres of coca cola!).

Still, thanks to her decision to eat healthily in order to lose some weight, I'm delighted to see she still hasn't lost her love for food and manages to make this low GI snack, rich in essential fats, phytoestrogens, fibre and antioxidants sound like a luxuriant treat, and to be fair it would be delicious.

Healthy food doesn't have to be dull or tasteless as Nigella has shown, and with a bit of thought most food c an be sexed up without making it deadly. Adding fresh herbs, spices, a grind of fresh pepper, fresh fruit, nuts and dried fruits to snacks (not all at the same time) can usually lift them to another level taste wise.

Let's hope Nigella's inspired enough to bring out a new healthy recipe book.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The healthy kitchen

I'm currently reorganising my kitchen, having had a good clear out and it reminded me of a few tips to share with you on keeping your cupboard contents healthy:

Give your fridge a weekly clear out throwing away anything out of date. Put your veggies on a shelf where you can see them so will remember to eat them, and use the salad drawer for jars and sauces.

Don't let foods languish in the freezer - whilst freezing preserves food brilliantly it still gradually denatures so aim to get through the contents every couple of months and periodically run down the contents, defrost it and give it a good clean.

Tins have chemicals in their linings that have been found to seep into food so try not to buy too many or keep them for months on end.

Plastics also contain harmful chemicals that can leach into food, especially in the heat, so keep all plastic wrapped food and bottles of liquid out of direct light.

Oils are highly sensitive to heat and light which damages them so they become harmful. Therefore they should not be kept next to the hob or in daylight. Keep them in a cool cupboard, not adjacent to your oven. The same applies to nuts, seeds, herbs and spices which should also be kept away from the heat.

Keep your juicer and steamer out on the counter. I actually like clear worktops buy if your cooking equipment is jammed in the back of your cupboard you're not going to use it so keep the healthy equipment out on display and hide the doughnut maker somewhere hard to access!

The same philosophy applies to unhealthy foods - keep the biscuits and sweets in a hard to reach spot (for me the top shelf is totally out of reach) so you have to make an effort to get to them, rather than absent mindedly dipping into the cookie jar.

Monday, 18 June 2012

A blip but not a blow out

Over the weekend the detox got somewhat derailed courtesy of some detox unfriendly eating out ...  I didn't go totally crazy but there were some eggs, fish and a wee bit of chocolate, plus I didn't drink enough water.  Interestingly I did feel more tired as a result and today was keen to get back on the wagon with lots of brown rice, fruit, veg and nuts.

The key with any kind of blip is to not let it turn into a blow out.  For me this just means adding an extra day onto the end of my detox to compensate and then not worrying about it, rather than using it as an excuse to have a full on blow out.

I know I'm also going to have another difficult day this week when I'll be at a social event where I can't be so picky on the catering. In this situation I recommend making the healthiest choice given what you're presented with, enjoy what you're eating and being comfortable with the fact that at your next meal you'll go back to your regime.

I know the 'i'll start the diet again tomorrow' mentality can be seen as a delaying tactic, but following a regime one day at a time is much easier psychologically than telling yourself you have to do something rigidly for a whole month, and then if you break it you feel like you've failed and eat a whole tub of ice cream!   So, think of an unhealthy food you have regularly, such as caffeine, chocolate, sugar or cheese, and just for tomorrow give it up. If you want it back on Wednesday then that's fine ... but when you get there you might feel like you can live without it for another day!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Being less prepared

Dieting and eating out can be a stressful combination, whether you're weight watching, avoiding certain foods or detoxing, like me.

My usual approach, as with most things in life, is to be prepared and agree the restaurant in advance before scouring the menu online to work out the best meal option.

This appeals to my inner control freak, however I do think I need to let go, and so in that spirit I embraced a laast minute restaurant decision and found myself at le pain quotidien for dinner and a girly catch-up.

Being a French boulangerie, you wouldn't think this would be the place to eat when detoxing, more likely to serve a croissant than a crudite. Still it took all of about 10 seconds to spot the perfect detox dinner choice - a delicious mix of quinoa and steamed veg with a tomato and mustard sauce, that I would enjoy whether I was on a detox or not.

I have to admit this was a positive surprise and will make me more open minded in trying restaurants I've previously discounted as not me friendly.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, see it as a learning opportunity, take your time to review the menu and see what fits in with your regime/diet requirements, then out of those options choose what appeals to you the most. You could discover a new favourite dish!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

I get by with a little help of my friends

I know it's popular to think that you have to suffer to get through detox, but I'm all in favour of minimizing the pain - the easier it is, the easier it is to stick to.

So I make sure I have my detox buddies to hand to keep me feeling good:

Water - water is your livers best friend when you detox so make sure you have 1.5-2 litres daily. Even if you don't feel like it, you'll feel better for it.

Herbal teas - water can get a bit boring, but having a good range of herbal teas to hand means I keep drinking it without getting bored. Rooibos tea and rice milk is particularly nice whenever I need something comforting

Dandelion coffee - can be a real saviour to get you through the low points and put paid to headaches and brain fog.

Grapefruit - a natural detoxifier, have half a fresh grapefruit daily for dessert after dinner instead of pudding

Spatone iron supplement - one downside of going meat free is that it takes a bit of effort to get your iron intake. Taking spatone with your morning juice ticks that box and keeps your energy levels up.

Rice protein powder - protein helps keep you satisfied, if you don't have enough you'll find yourself continually hungry. I keep this hypoallergenic protein powder at work and shake it into a berry smoothie I buy on the way into work for a super easy filling breakfast.

Chromium drops - one drop a day keeps the cravings a way. Kick chocolate cravings to the kerb with this blood sugar balancing mineral.

A top daily multivitamin - I take one every day anyway, but it's even more important during detox to make sure your liver has all the nutrients it needs to detox effectively.

Sleep - ok so I can't stock up on it, but getting enough sleep maximizes your overnight toxin clearance. You'll know you're getting enough when you start waking naturally before your alarm.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Totally satisfied

Something I love about a detox is that you're eating so healthily that you really don't need to worry about portion control. Today for example, I couldn't finish my lunch of rice and bean salad, whereas I normally clean my plate!

Detox meals are high in fibre and water so very filling. In addition, when you consistently eat a highly nutritious diet you meet your body's need for nutrients so it doesn't need to keep you hungry in a quest to get more vitamins in.

Even if a full detox is not for you, cutting out sugar, salt and any artificial additives from your diet can regulate your appetite and dispense with cravings and false hungers, naturally putting an end to over-eating.

It's a great feeling to be able to trust your appetite and end a meal feeling totally satisfied without the guilty feelings of having gorged yourself.


Monday, 11 June 2012

Detox diary room

Hello big brother!
Day 1 of the detox is complete and it went pretty much as I'd expect.

Breakfast was a fruit smoothie with added rice protein powder (whey should be avoided during detox) plus a homemade gluten and sugar free strawberry muffin.

I had a busy morning and by mid morning had developed a big thirst - not unusual on a detox - so drank plenty of water.

I had a mid morning snack of a couple of rice cakes with hummous plus some more water and by 1pm I had a mild headache. These are unusual to me but very usual in a detox so for once this was a good sign. I had a Yogi detox herbal tea and went for a 20minute brisk walk before having a lunch of mixed salad with rice and pulses.

Exercise can really help during a detox as your lymphatic drainage system, which takes toxins from your cells to your liver, works through muscle contractions. That's why yoga, gentle cardio or anything that gets your muscles moving can help make your detox more effective and help get you through the initial withdrawal symptoms.

After lunch my headache had passed and I just drank water for the rest of the afternoon. I stopped off at tesco for some organic veggies on the way home and had a nice big bowl of broccoli, mushroom and cashew stir fry with garlic and ginger for dinner. The detox I'm following also avoids salt so I skipped the soy sauce and had organic basmati rice cooked with half coconut milk and half water to make it nice and creamy.

Eating organic fruit and veg is always preferable for health but especially so during a detox as you want to absolutely minimize your toxin intake to give your liver the best chance to clear out any you've got stored in fat cells. This is why I recommend eating organically if you want to reduce cellulite, along with avoiding meat and dairy produce.

Once my dinner digested I had plenty of water again to aid my liver in detoxing overnight.

The important thing to remember early on in a detox is that feeling tired, foggy, headachy and sometimes a bit grumpy are all good signs that the process is working, as is experiencing cravings for toxic foods - you need to take heart in these symptoms and use them as motivation to keep going. Once you're through to the other side you'll feel so well and full of beans that it will be encouragement enough to keep on detoxing!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Rain delays

Normally by this point in the year I'd have done a fortnights detox to kick start spring time weight loss and get me in shape for the beach. As well as helping shift the winter flab it's also a great way to give your body some tlc with highly nutritious, easy to digest meals which allow your body to detoxify and repair.

The reason I haven't got round to detoxing yet this year is because I've been waiting for an improvement in the weather, but a third of the way into June with the rain pouring down outside I have to face the fact that I could be waiting a long time!

So from tomorrow, for two weeks, I'll be following Carol Vorderman's Detox for Life, which is a vegan, caffeine, alcohol, sugar, gluten and artificial additive free detox.

It doesn't require any fancy foods or big financial outlay but does necessitate bringing your own food into work. I'll be eating mainly rice, gluten free pasta, new and sweet potatoes for carbs, with pulses, tofu, nuts and seeds for proteins and loads of fruit, veg and water. 

I'll blog on how I'm getting on, but as I usually follow a pretty clean diet, I don't expect more than 3 or 4 days of a fuzzy head and feeling a bit tired before I start to feel the benefits.

Detox reactions can be much more severe if you eat the excluded foods on a daily basis, so it's best to do a pre-tox where you gradually cut down your intake before starting your detox rather than going cold turkey.

If you want a good thorough detox and dietary reset I recommend this one or Joshi's Holistic Detox
, which isn't vegan so might feel less severe and is a book I recommend in itself as a good manual for healthy eating as is Dr Merrell's 
The Source and change your life.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

An uphill struggle!

I hope you all enjoyed the long weekend and got plenty of rest. I spent the weekend following hot doc up hills and mountains in the lake district which was great fun.

I say following because despite my wishful thinking I'm never going to be as quick up a mountain as a six foot tall fit man.

Still it was a bit of a shock to find myself huffing and puffing uphill behind him and made me very aware that I'm much less cardiovascularly fit than I was this time last year when I jogged up Mount Snowdon!

Running, walking or cycling uphill is a great test of your cardio fitness and also a great way to get fitter fast. However with London being so flat we don't really get much opportunity to do this on a regular basis.

If you're lucky enough to live near a hilly park make sure you include a few laps up and down a hill to really get your heart going. For the rest of us there's an easy answer and that is to take the stairs whenever possible.

You might not think it would make much difference but try walking the four floors up to the furniture department in John Lewis and you'll definitely feel it.

Do a few flights of stairs a day and after a week you should notice a difference, walking up the escalators or stairs in the underground is an easy regular way to do this. Stairs are also great for toning the thighs and bum so doubly worthwhile!