Chocolate Almond Bread

It’s World Chocolate Day!

So being that I am a dedicated chocolate lover, I of course had to share something absolutely deliocus! I am excited to have teamed up with Blue Diamond Almonds UK to share this CHOCOLATE ALMOND BREAD recipe with ALMOND BUTTER ICING (it tastes a good as it sounds!)

 

You will need:

Method
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease a 1lb loaf tin with coconut oil or use a silicon bread mould like I do! In a bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and ground almonds. In a separate bowl, combine all the wet ingredients.

Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients and mix together until combined.

Pour the mixture into your prepared loaf tin. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until knife comes out clean – Don’t overbake! Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Allow to cool completely before icing.

Icing

  • 3/4 cup almond butter
  • 1 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 2 heaped tbsp icing sugar

Melt the almond butter and coconut oil soft until soft – around 15 seconds in the microwave. Add the icing sugar to achieve a thicker consistency then ice the bread. Store in the fridge. ENJOY!!

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#Headstrong

This week I was delighted to attend the Headstrong event with Richie Norton (aka the Strength Temple) in partnership with AXA PPP healthcare. Headstrong is an initiative that encourages us to look at our physical and mental health as one, something we can often neglect to do,, and overall, wellbeing is something I am extremely passionate about. Health is about so much more than what you are eating… It is about what you are thinking, how you are thinking, how you speak to yourself and how you feel. Mental and physical wellbeing go hand in hand and it was nice to take an hour out of my busy schedule at the Headstrong event  to stretch, re focus my mind, and calm my brain down for just an hour. 

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I am someone that stretches daily but the class that Richie Norton led was a lot more focused and I really felt the benefit. There are many different physical and mental aspects that stretching and moving may have an impact on: ⠀

 

  • Research suggests that stretching regularly may help improve your circulation, thus increasing blood flow to your muscles (1). This may also decrease your recovery time after an intense workout. 
  • Whether we are sat at a desk all day or lifting heavy objects, back pain is extremely common and become a problem if you are moving too much or not enough. Studies suggest that stretching can help release tension and reduce risk of muscle strain (2).
  • Stretching may help reduce stress levels. When we stress, our bodies tend to tense, even if we don’t realise it! This includes both physical and emotional stress. Stretching it out may help the body release tension. 
  • As well as calming the body, research suggests it may help calm your mind too! Practicing some kind of stretching or breath work daily may help you focus more, be more productive later on in the day and give you a mental time out.

AXA PPP healthcare have some excellent videos led by Richie Norton that you can practice and easily incorporate in to your every day life… Try it and see if you feel a difference!  

 

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23676363 
  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/stretching-and-strengthening-are-key-to-healing-and-preventing-back-pain

 

 

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Veggie Sausage Pesto Pasta

I am very excited to have teamed up with Meatless Farm during World Meat Free Week as part of their campaign aimed at encouraging UK households to switch to one more plant-based meal per week in order to benefit the planet.

 According to new scientific data analysed by environmental scientist Joseph Poore, if everyone in the UK switched just one more red meat meal to a plant-based meal per week, it would cut the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50 million tonnes – the equivalent of taking 16 million cars off the road – resulting in up to an 8.4 percent reduction in the UK’s total carbon emissions.

This healthy, easy option is a delicious way to enjoy plant-based protein!

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Ingredients (serves 2)

✔️4 @meatlessfarm sausages

✔️160g uncooked pasta (I used green pea fusilli)

✔️50g grated cheese (vegan)

✔️160g green peas

✔️160g broccoli

✔️4 tbsp veggie green pesto

✔️1/2 red chilli

✔️Olive oil

Method

Fry the sausages in olive oil over a medium heat for 8-10 minutes, turning them often until cooked. You can add the green veggies into this pan too and fry for a few extra minutes. Boil the pasta for 10 minutes until soft, then drain and rinse. Split the cooked pasta between 2 bowls and add 2 tbsp of the pesto to each bowl and stir in well. Cut the sausages into chunks and split with the veg across the two bowls. Top both with grated cheese and some chilli (if you like it hot!) and ENJOY!

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You can find Meatless Farm products at @sainsburys @morrisons @coopuk @boothscountry and @thevegankindsupermarket stores nationwide and make sure you check out @meatlessfarm on instagram!

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Body image and mental health

Have you ever been on a diet that encourages you to put your health on the back seat? By this, I mean the number on the scales takes priority, and your physical and mental health don’t have a chance. And in fact, this is what all diets do! Even if they are marketed as ‘a lifestyle change’ more often than not you are being sold a way of eating that encourages you to restrict in some way and cut out a whole food group.

The truth is, all diets will likely lead to one thing – an unhealthy relationship with food and perhaps even poorer body image. And when we have an unhealthy relationship with food, we often have an unhealthy relationship with ourselves. It becomes a vicious circle: we want to change our body, so we go on a diet, we may adopt some disordered eating habits and end up doing more harm than good, to then hating on our bodies again. But what if we learnt to just LOVE our bodies? As they were, as they were supposed to look like!?

If you wake up every day to look in the mirror and criticise how your body looks, you will never feel happy and healthy! Remember that health is about more than just what you eat!

I have asked Body Image Research Nadia Craddock to talk about the importance of accepting our bodies and why we are so susceptible to being so critical in regards to what we look like…

Is there a specific reason that individuals struggle with body image?

We live in a society that privileges thin, white, young, smooth, physically-able bodies and places undue value on one’s appearance to symbolise a person’s success, happiness, desirability and worth. Sociocultural theory and research suggests than people struggle with body image concerns when they both internalise these messages (believing that to be beautiful, we need to fit an unrealistic and narrow ideal, and that to be worthwhile, desirable, and loved we need to be beautiful) and make upwards social comparisons (with peers, celebrities, strangers on social media who are perceived as closer to society’s appearance ideal).

Pressure to achieve unrealistic appearance ideals can come from the media, social media, our friends, family, and partners. Appearance-based teasing or bullying can also result in negative body image.

According to feminist theory and research, when our (currently particularly women’s) bodies are positioned as a key symbol of worth, we start self-monitoring our bodies, viewing them as objects, purely for their aesthetic value from someone else’s (often men’s’) gaze. This hyper-vigilance and self-scrutiny of the body can also result in body image concerns.

Why can ‘hating’ on our bodies be detrimental to our mental health?

Hating our bodies (often referred to as body dissatisfaction in the research literature) can have a negative impact our mental *and physical* health. Research has found that body dissatisfaction can predict later depressive symptoms, anxiety, low self-esteem, and eating disorders.

It’s often the case that when people are unhappy with the way they look, they try and change their appearance in some way through, for example, restrictive diets, unhealthy weight control behaviours (such as diet pills/supplements), tanning, skin lightening, or even through cosmetic procedures. All can compromise our physical health. Research also indicates that people with negative body image are less likely to look after their bodies (e.g., using sunscreen, going to the GP, eating fruit and veg etc.).

How can we learn to love and be more accepting of our bodies?

Positive body image refers to accepting, appreciating, respecting, and having favourable opinions of one’s body, including its unique characteristics, functionality, and capabilities.

Increasing research is focusing on identifying evidence-based ways to improve our body image.

Engaging in embodying activities (such as yoga) may be helpful as they promote a sense of agency and connection with one’s body, and an appreciation of one’s body beyond its aesthetic characteristics.

Critical media literacy is another important mechanism (knowing images are photoshopped, that brands profit of people’s insecurities) that is useful in improving body image.

It is also important to acknowledge (and dismantle) oppressive ideologies that uphold narrow appearance ideals (e.g., weight stigma, racism, homophobia etc.).

 

You can follow Nadia on her instagram page https://www.instagram.com/nadia.craddock/ and make sure you check out her podcast ‘Appearance Matters’.

Veggie Fritters

You guys are always asking for more easy lunch box recipes and these are absolutely perfect to make in batches and add to your lunchbox!
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This recipe was developed and tested by @essentially.emma and myself and we are confident that you will love them!

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INGREDIENTS
Fritters: ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
½ cup quinoa
1 egg
½ carrot, grated
1 courgette, grated
3 tbsp flour
100g sweetcorn
1 tbsp chives, chopped
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Dip: ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
½ cup Greek yogurt
1 tbsp chives, chopped
½ lemon, juice of ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
1. Cook the quinoa according the pack instructions.
2. Meanwhile, grate the courgette and carrot.
3. Wrap the grated courgette in a paper towel and squeeze well to remove some of the liquid.
4. Once the quinoa is cooked, mix all of the fritter ingredients in a bowl.
5. Scoop out around ¼ cup of mixture and shape it in to a ball with your hands and then flatten on a chopping board to make a disc shape. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.
6. Heat a large frying pan with a little olive oil over medium heat.
7. Once hot, add the fritters and cook for 3 minutes on each side.
8. Meanwhile, mix up the dipping sauce.
9. Serve the fritters with the dipping sauce and enjoy!

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Sweet potato breakfast muffins

I absolutely love whipping up foods that can be taken on-the-go for breakfast or as a snack! We all lead busy lives and some mornings you choose an extra 20 minutes in bed over having breakfast before you leave! But why not have the best of both world and prepare yourself with a batch of nutritious muffins that you can grab and go!

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These go perfectly with Greek yoghurt!
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INGREDIENTS
1 large sweet potato or 2 small ones
2 small bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp pumpkin spice (or a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg & ginger)
1 egg (or flax seed egg)
1 tbsp flax seed
1 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 cup oats
1 tsp baking powder
Chopped walnuts to decorate (optional)
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METHOD (makes 6)
Bake your sweet potato in the oven for around 40 mins until completely cooked and nice and soft. Remove the skin. Mash the sweet potato in a bowl and add the banana, egg, vanilla, baking powder and flax seed. Mix well until combined then add the spices and the flour and oats. Once combined, distribute the mix in to 6 cupcakes cases and bake in the oven for 15 mins – Enjoy!

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Mindful eating

Mindful eating  is based on mindfulness, a Buddhist concept. It is something that is suggested to be beneficial AND something I like to practice myself. Although it may not be for everyone, there is research to suggest that it may be a very helpful tool and has also been associated with increased enjoyment whilst eating and reduced episodes of bingeing.(1)

Additionally, it may be helpful for individuals who suffer with eating disorders, depression and / or anxiety. (2, 3)

Mindful eating encourages you be more aware of your senses and acknowledge your mind and body’s response to the food you are eating. By slowing down and eating mindfully, it may help you identify and become more in-tune with your hunger and satiety signals and appreciate the taste and textures of the food, thus increasing enjoyment!

The fundamentals of mindful eating include:

  • Eating slowly and without distraction.
  • Listening to physical hunger cues and eating until you’re full.
  • Distinguishing between actual hunger and non-hunger triggers for eating.
  • Engaging your senses by noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures and tastes.
  • Learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food.
  • Eating to maintain overall health and well-being.
  • Noticing the effects food has on your feelings and figure.
  • Appreciating your food.
  • Enjoying your food.

The concept allows you to replace automatic thoughts and reactions (may also be distractions) with more conscious responses. (4)

Although it is not realistic to eat mindfully at every meal – (we lead busy lives and sometimes there is just no time to sit down and enjoy your food properly) – but perhaps practicing this X amount of times a week, may be helpful to you. Now like I said, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally make an effort to eat breakfast and dinner in a mindful way. I enjoy the whole experience so much more! But hey, that is just me!

How to practice mindful eating

Practicing mindfulness includes a series of exercises and meditations.

If committed, some may find it helpful to attend a seminar, online course or workshop on mindfulness or mindful eating.

However, the points below make a good starting point if you want to experiment with eating mindfully:

  • Slow down: Eat more slowly and try not to rush your meals.
  • Chew thoroughly.
  • Get rid of any distractions by turning off the TV and putting down your phone.
  • Eat in silence, or try having the radio on in the background if you prefer some background noise.
  • Focus on how the food makes you feel.
  • Focus on the taste and texture of the food.
  • Savour each bite.
  • Try and identify when you start to feel full.

To begin with, it is a good idea to pick one meal per day, to focus on these points.

Once you’ve got the hang of this, mindfulness will become more natural. Then you can focus on implementing these habits into more meals.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22888181/ 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21181579
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15256293/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19241400
  5. https://www.thecenterformindfuleating.org 

How to put on weight in a healthy way

I often get messages from people, particularly on instagram, who are looking for advice on how to gain weight in a healthy way. There are so many ‘tips’ out there in regards to losing weight (but do keep in mind if found on instagram they may not be the most reliable ways to ‘lose weight’). When it comes to your health and weight, please do not consult Google or social media as your reliable source. Your health is not worth sacrificing so please make sure you seek advice from a Registered Nutritionist or Dietitian.

Talia, is a lovely friend of mine and Registered Dietitian currently working on an inpatient eating disorder unit, so I thought she was an amazing person to ask to write this blog with me. She dedicates her job to helping individuals who are very underweight, restore their weight in a safe way. Here we are going to provide you with some information in regards to weight gain.

Is it simply a case up of upping your portion sizes?

You will need to increase the amount of food that you’re eating to gain weight, but the type of foods eaten need to be considered as well. What you are currently eating will influence what dietary changes might need to occur, for example, if you’re cutting out a food group or avoiding particular foods this will need to be addressed to ensure you are taking in the right balance of nutrients from all food groups. Normalising eating behaviours can be challenging so simply being asked to increase portion size is not as straight forward as it might seem for many people, especially as hunger and fullness signals can’t always be trusted if you have been restricting dietary intake for a while. It is likely that activity levels will need to reduce too so that your body can divert energy to restoring weight.

Should you just ‘binge’ until you restore your weight?

No, this isn’t recommended. Intake should increase gradually so that weight gain is steady and better managed from a mental health and physical health perspective. ‘Binging’ to restore weight can actually be very harmful to your health if you have a severely low BMI and have restricted your carbohydrate intake over an extended period of time. This increases your risk of developing re-feeding syndrome which although rare, can be critical due to a shift in fluids and electrolytes. It is best to consult your Doctor or Dietitian to assess this before starting weight restoration.

Is there a certain food group you should be focusing on?

I see a lot of clients that are very focused on meeting their 5-a-day of fruit and vegetables during weight restoration. For weight gain, these foods are of a lower priority as they don’t provide the main fuel source and building blocks your body needs to gain weight. Getting a balance of macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat and protein) from enough wholegrains, starchy foods, meat and alternatives and added fats should be emphasised in the initial stages.

Is there a certain amount of kilos that is considered ‘safe’ in regards to gaining weight gradually?

Yes, generally between 0.5kg-1kg of weight gain per week is considered safe. Weight gain can be more rapid at the beginning due to fluid shifts, increased gastrointestinal content and the development of oedema (swelling due to build-up of fluid). It is not uncommon to gain up to 2-3kg in the first couple of weeks as a result of this which can be distressing but it is important to know that the rate of weight gain does normalise. It is difficult to know how your body will respond during weight restoration as weight gain can fluctuate and some weeks you might even experience weight loss which can be confusing, but is a normal part of the weight gain journey.

Should you cut out exercise whilst restoring weight?

This really depends on your weight/BMI and your physical health (heart rate, blood pressure, blood tests etc). The amount and type of exercise allowed should be decided in collaboration with your Doctor (either your GP or Psychiatrist) and Dietitian. We know that physical activity has a positive impact on anxiety, depression and social connections but at a severely low BMI, minimal exercise or “bed rest” is generally recommended to allow the body to conserve energy, start restoring bodily functions and re-build muscle tissues. The next step once some weight gain has been achieved would be to incorporate low intensity activities such as a gentle, short walk or yoga and continue to build up from there. High intensity activities like HITT, running, gym classes and team sports should be avoided until BMI is back within a healthy weight range, your physical health is normalised, and you get the all clear from your Doctor. For some people, it can take several months or years to return to this level of activity. It is also important to note that when activity levels increase (this might even be returning to work or studies), the amount of food you need to continue gaining weight will likely increase.

Do I have to eat high sugar/high fat (“junk foods”) to gain weight?

Although it is not 100% necessary, most of the time the answer is yes and there are a few reasons why:

  1. To gain weight you have to eat more food and increasing portion size can be quite challenging. Incorporating nutrient dense foods that are high in energy, or high fat/high sugar within a balanced diet can help to reduce the volume of food required
  2. These foods are part of a normal diet so there is no reason why they should be avoided
  3. These foods can be targeted (falsely) as the cause of weight gain and can be feared and cut out of the diet. Gradual exposure to these foods and regular inclusion in your diet will help to develop a more positive relationship with food over time as this fear decreases

What are some of the common side effects of gaining weight?

It is very common to experience several physical and psychological side effects during weight restoration. You may experience an increase in anxiety, abdominal pain and bloating, feeling full all the time and constipation and/or diarrhoea. These physical symptoms can occur as a result of the abdominal muscles and muscles of the gastrointestinal tract losing tone and strength after a period of undereating. The stomach is hyper-sensitive to larger portion sizes, food takes longer to empty from the stomach and due to loss of muscle tone, the abdomen can appear rounded after eating.

Some strategies to help make this process more comfortable include wearing clothes that are lose-fitting, using distraction and self-soothing activities after meals, limiting fluids consumed with meals (have them between instead), including energy dense foods to reduce portion.

You can follow Talia on Instgram and check out her website www.taliacecchele.com. 

 

If you are suffering from an eating disorder, having support can be an essential part of recovery. https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk have some excellent resources.

Lunch time meal prep

Need to prep your lunch? Can’t think of something quick, easy and deliciously nutritious? I got you covered!

To get the most out of a lunch box, I like to make sure its well balanced and contains carbs, protein, essential fats and veggies! And of course tastes delicious! I always get messages on Instagram asking for on the go lunch ideas and whilst I have many recipes, I thought it would be helpful to put them all in one place! So below are my top 5 lunch box recipes to help get you through the week… (I recommend making

Herb tofu with mixed grains, wheat berries & greens

Simply steam the veg and add the tofu and grains cold, ready to heat up at work!

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Veggie box

This one is super easy to cook and then reheat at work but you can also eat it cold and on the go!

Ingredients: 125g cooked quinoa, 3 beetroot falafels, 100g cooked black beans, 80g steamed asparagus

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Bean & Lentil stew

This can be made in batches to freeze in lunch boxes too!

  • BEAN & LENTIL STEW (serves 3-4)
  • 1 x 400g tin of Black beans, drained
  • 1 x 400g tinned chickpeas, drained
  • 2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
  • 200g Green lentils, dry
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 x 400g tinned Tomatoes
  •  400ml Vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp Chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

    1. In large pot add vegetable broth and lentils.
    2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to med-low and simmer for 20 minutes.
    3. While lentils are cooking, in a large pan add olive oil, onion, red pepper, and garlic.
    4. Saute 5-6 minutes until softened.
    5. When lentils have simmered for 20 minutes, add the mix from the pan and remainder of ingredients to lentils pot.
    6. Simmer the stew for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    7. Do occasional taste tests and add more or less spice to your liking. Add to your lunch boxes!
    8. Serving mine with freekah – Enjoy!

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Plant based box

  • 125g mixed brown rice and quinoa (cooked)
  • 100g black beans, cooked
  • 100g chickpeas, cooked,
  • 160g mixed greens
  • 3 tbsp tomato and basil pasta sauce – I use one straight from the jar!

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Buddha bowl style

Here it is pretty simple – you choose a grain, a protein and some veggies! For this bowl you will need a mix of brown rice and lentils (around 125g in total – cooked), 30-40g of grilled halloumi, 4 veggie falafels, spinach leaves and steamed broccoli. Bang it in a lunchbox and you’re good to go!

 

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My Vegetable pasta recipe is also a great one to box up and enjoy hot or cold!

To keep up with new recipes, make sure you follow me @sophieshealthykitchen