Chicken & Quinoa Superfood Stir Fry

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Today I would like to talk about “food prep” which is a widely known concept in the bodybuilding community and it is not a new concept at all, but a modern way of calling the good “lunch box” that most have taken to school at some point or another.

It does take a bit of planning and effort to start doing it, but the benefits are many.

I know that there is an endless supply of possibilities to grab lunch for most of us, since canteens, take always and local delis abound and it is just too tempting to skip the hassle and just buy something off the shelves. While this is all well and good, eating like that every single way of the week can be taxing. Even if you are the person with the best intentions in the world, there are only so many healthy alternatives one can choose from, and the chances of ending up having a white bread sandwich or a BTL are just too big.

Even if you think you are going for a healthy alternative, you might be stepping into the dangers of not knowing how this particular food has been cooked.

For example, if a salad get added a sugary dressing, all the goodness of it might be compromised, and believe me, do yourselves a favour and read the ingredients of the labels to really be aware of what they are selling you as a “light” alternative, because most of the time, the reduced fat alternatives are loaded with sugars that are actually worse than the original oil content.

A simple olive oil, vinegar and salt dressing, is the best alternative if you can find it.

Same thing can be said for the fat content in two ways, the first one and more obvious is the sauces. A Thai curry sauce adds a huge amount of fat and carbohydrates to a meal and you may be thinking that what you are eating is “rice and chicken” when effectively there are about 300 calories of sugar and fat that you hadn’t taken into consideration, same goes for sweet wine reductions, caramelized things and satay sauces, but the list is truly long. The second is the way in which foods are cooked. Anything that has a coating, and has been fried is an obvious no go, doesn’t matter how light the coating may look to you, it adds a few undesirable grams of fat to your meal. Even if you are trying to control your weight, this additional fat constitutes a risk because in most cases, restaurants do not use extra virgin olive oil or other healthy fats, but cheaper alternatives that can affect your cholesterol and jeopardize your arteries and heart.

In a nutshell, whether or not you are trying to lose weight, a homemade meal is almost always a better alternative to a store bought one.

Later on this week I will be giving tips on what and how to prepare your food without too much hassle at all, with just a few easy tricks you will be able to improve the quality of your nutrition, save some money and maybe even loose a few pounds.

Today I would like to share with you a Chicken and Quinoa Stir fry, it is one of my favorite options to bring to the office because it contains everything that my body requires, it fills you up with slow releasing energy, with healthy fats, tons of protein and low GI carbs. Low fat, low carb, high protein, unprocessed and very high in fiber. What is there not to love!

Ingredients (serves 3)

450 grams of chicken breast

120 gr. Of quinoa

½ red pepper

½ green pepper

½ yellow pepper

1 red onion

3 mini bok choy

A bunch of green asparagus

A handful of snow peas

2 handfuls of Kale

5 fresh coriander stalks

1 red chili

1 green chili

1 tsp. of mustard seeds

1 tbs. crushed garlic

A little sesame oil

I have prepared a visual guide on how to add the ingredients but it is so easy that you may not actually need it.

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First boil the quinoa in water with a touch of salt, follow the packaging instructions but it should normally take 16 minutes at low heat (to keep simmering).

Once the quinoa is ready, chop all the ingredients (check picture) and heat up a little bit of sesame oil in a wok. Add fist the garlic, then the seeded mustard and then the chicken. Allow the chicken to get a bit golden and then add the rest of the vegetables except the bok choy and kale, that will be added at the end.

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Once all the veggies have been incorporated add the soy sauce, mix well to allow the flavours to mix and add the quinoa. Finally sprinkle with the juice of a lime.

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Enjoy!

Gluten Free Wholegrain Lemon Drizzle Cake

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Today post is a bonus post, just like the recipe that I am going to share is a bonus food. You might or might not be familiar with the concept “cheat meal” but this recipe falls under this category.

A cheat meal is one meal a week where you eat whatever you feel like. And I mean whatever, a treat of your choice, a cheeseburger with white bread and bacon and fries with mayo. A pint of Ben & jerry’s ice cream, a bit of both… doesn’t matter. The role of this meal is to “cheat” your body to avoid it from getting used to a) too low calories b) too low fat c) too controlled food intake (as in clean)

It is particularly important in the context of a body building or fitness diet, when the athlete or amateur has a strict calorie or macronutrient diet and eats clean and lean on a constant basis.

Fitness athletes and sports people that compete in body categories follow processes of “bulking” or “cutting” these are first a phase in which you over nourish your body so it creates lean muscle (with specific training for it) and then a “cutting” phase in which you reduce your calorie intake to be at a deficit and reduce your body fat percentage to the desired level (normally between 12 and 16% for women and 4 and 7% for men).

This principle also applies to people on a weight loss journey specially if they have been on a diet or on a calorie restriction for long period of time and their body could simply “adjust” and their weight loss could stop, what is called hitting a plateau.

Having one cheat meal a week will shock your metabolism giving your body the message that he will get big portions, high fat, simple carbs again, and therefore it is absolutely ok to burn some more fat, because there is more food where that came from! It will also impact your mentally, allowing you to have a social life a date, a celebratory meal and not feel like the journey doesn’t allow you to eat anything you crave. Also it can be a great way to replenish the glycogen (what fuels your muscles) on your body in low or extremely low carb diets, and you will work out with a lot of extra strength after it.

If I go out for my cheat meal, I will eat whatever I feel like in the menu, and it is fine, but if I am cooking it at home, I try to add something extra to it, in this case, I tried a new recipe for a Lemon Drizzle cake, which turned out to be delicious. It is a gluten free alternative, not because it is less fattening, because it’s not, but because I used wholegrain rice flour and almond flour, both full of fiber, which is great for your digestive system. The almonds bring a good amount of healthy fat to the mix as well, and I have observed that gluten free cakes usually have a moist and texture that makes them better than their traditional counterparts! I think it’s because of their higher fat content.

So please feel free to enjoy this cake but do it knowing that it is a treat.

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Ingredients:

200 gr. Butter (room temperature)

200 gr. Almond Flour

200 gr. Raw Moscovado Sugar (cane unrefined sugar)

100 gr. Wholegrain Rice Flour

½ tsp. Vanilla extract

1 tsp. Baking powder

3 Eggs

3 lemons

75 gr icing sugar (and 3 tbsp of water)

How to…

Heat up the over to 180C, beat up the sugar with the butter and add the vanilla extract and the eggs. Once this mixture is creamy and uniform, add the rice flour, the baking powder and the almond flour. Add the juice and the zest of one of the lemons and keep the zest and the juice of other two for the drizzle. Pour the mixture into a cake tin (18 to 13 cm diameter), mine is made of silicon so it doesn’t need to be greased but if your is metallic you will need to grease it to avoid it from sticking.

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Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. This cake takes a bit longer than others due to the consistency of the ingredients.

In the meantime, heat up the lemon juice in a saucepan with the water and the icing sugar and let it simmer for 3 to 5 minutes until it has the consistency of a light syrup.

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Once the cake is ready, let it cool down for 10 minutes and then pinch the surface with a toothpick all over the surface, pour the syrup on to the cake with the help of a spoon so it spreads out evenly. Let the cake sit for around 30 minutes to let the lemon drizzle set through the cake.

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So this cake is a reasonably healthier alternative than the classic version due to the higher fiber, higher protein and good fats (almond) and raw sugar, but it is still a cake, and it is still a treat, so enjoy in moderation as part of a healthy, well balanced diet.

90 Calorie Protein Punch Easy Egg Muffins

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How did I never think of this is a mystery, but we all have lots to learn, and I have learned about these beauties this weekend. I use an app called Fitocrazy to log my workouts, it provides support for fitness purposes and it’s full of people with very inspiring ideas, one of them was these egg muffins. Even though I seem to be the last one to find out about them, I thought I would give them a go.

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Before sharing the recipe, which is very very easy, I would like to stress the importance of snacking as part of a well balanced and sustainable way of eating. Most experts recommend doing 5 to 6 meals a day, smaller in size, the main advantages of these are two:

1. Keeps your metabolism active: when you eat every few hours your body keeps receiving fuel and so he keeps using it freely.

2. Avoids cravings and overeating at the main meal times. If you get to lunch starving, you will jump on literally anything, from crisps to sweets. If you eat something before hand, you will have better control over your appetite.

What should a good snack then have? Protein for starters, it is very important for satiety and muscle mass maintenance. Carbohydrate to make sure that protein is used best as possible, it should be a healthy source of carb to keep you fuller for longer and then some type of fat, ideally the least abundant component.

Between your lunch and dinner, one or two of these with a piece of fruit (an apple for example) will keep you energized and full until dinner. I have made these with full eggs, but I would recommend also to substitute a few eggs with egg whites for more protein and less fat depending on your goals.

Finally, I have made these vegetarian but they are awesome with bacon or chicken in them for additional flavor.

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Ingredients (for 6 muffins)

6 eggs

1 cube of frozen spinach

1 tomato

1/2 onion

2 tbsp. grated Grana-Padano or parmesan cheese

Salt & Pepper

How to…

In a frying pan, sauté the tomato and onion with salt & pepper for 3 to 5 minutes. In he meantime, boil the spinach until is loose and then remove all the water. In a bowl, beat up the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper again and add the vegetables and one tablespoon of grated cheese.

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Mix well and pour into muffin liners, the metallic are best to avoid the egg from sticking to the paper (it does stick a lot). Sprinkle the top with the rest of the cheese and bake for about 20 minutes at 150 C.

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They last in the fridge for around 4 to 5 days so it’s a great grab & go snack or breakfast if you are running late!

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Enjoy!

The Miraculous Delicious Slimming Breakfast

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This is the ultimate slimming breakfast. Some might say that not having breakfast would be even more slimming, for those of you late to join the “how your metabolism works” wagon, this couldn’t be less accurate.

When fasted, your body naturally reduces your energy consumption, this is a survival technique that us humans have developed through evolution to make us as efficient as possible, if the fasting goes for too long, or if the caloric intake is too low for our needs, it also has the nasty habit of going into something called starvation mode which has a very serious way of messing with your weight loss, fat shredding or fitness goals.

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A healthy breakfast kick starts your day filling you up with long lasting energy and giving your body permission to burn energy on a continuous manner.

A breakfast should be composed of good fats, slow carbs (low GI) high in fiber as a good dose of protein.

This beauty today is a take on a traditional Spanish rice pudding but swapping the rice with oat bran, a much healthier and lighter alternative for those on a weight loss journey and all I have done is to substitute ingredients with their healthy counterpart in order to preserve the flavour as much as possible. I promise you, this breakfast is so delicious that you would feel like you are cheating, and it only has 180 calories.

If these were not reasons enough, it is dead easy to make and takes 5 minutes to make portions for a few days because I can be made and kept in the fridge for all week!

Ingredients (serves 3)

90 gr oat bran thick cut

600 ml. Alpro light soya milk (or an alternative of your choice)

1 cinnamon stick

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp sucralose sweetener (or your preferred non calorie sweetener)

1 Lemon rind

How to make it…

In a cooking pot, heat up the milk together with the cinnamon stick, the lemon rind and the ground cinnamon, on a kitchen scale, weigh the desired amount of oat bran, 30 gr is normally a good portion for ladies, so for 3 days, 90 gr.

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When the milk is hot, add the oat bran, stir well and bring to a boil, beware of the boiling milk since it is very treacherous. Turn off the heat and keep stirring for a couple of minutes. Remove the lemon rind and the cinnamon stick and add sweeter to taste together with a dash of cold milk if the mixture is too dense. Taste and correct the amount of sweetener.

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Sucralose loses the sweetening power when heated, that is why I prefer to add it a after boiling.

Distribute the mixture in individual containers and sprinkle with a bit of ground cinnamon for decoration and taste.

Cinnamon is also a fantastic spice for keeping your blood sugar levels under control so it helps control appetite and therefore maintain weight loss!

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I strongly recommend you change your breakfast for this for a couple of weeks if you are trying to lose weight and let me know how you go!

Low Carb Guilt Free Burger

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Since today is Friday   , and it is a wonderful thing to think of the weekend ahead.. I don’t know about you but I normally use these days to rest and I usually place my cheat meals or somehow less basic meals on these two days. It’s a way to enjoy them with my friends and family and makes it all more enjoyable. When you are trying to lose weight of reach a certain fitness goal however, the amount of “celebration” in this Celebratory meals is normally a bit more constrained, but this doesn’t mean that you do not deserve a bit of happiness.

Since for me, the low carb diet is the one that generally provides the best results, I would like to share with you this recipe of a low carb bacon cheese burger, which is also quite moderate in fat content.

I did mine with lean ground beef and reduced fat cheese, and you could even do it with turkey bacon, I used normal pork smoked bacon (British bacon) simply because I love it haha 😉

Of course, this recipe is not rocket science but hey, I thought it was worth sharing the idea!

Ingredients (serves one)

150/200 gr of lean ground beef

1 lettuce leaf

1 slice of tomato

1 slice of smoked British bacon

1 slice of reduced fat cheese (I prefer gruyere but cheddar works just as well)

½ tbsp. of mayonnaise

½ tbsp. of reduced sugar ketchup

2 slices of Aubergine (or Portobello mushrooms)

How to do it?

Pan fry the aubergine slices (don’t make them too thin or they will break) in the same pan and set aside, one minute on each side is enough.

Season the meat with salt, pepper and any spices that you like (I add garlic and onion powders normally) fry the burger pattie in a non-sticky pan without any added oil until it is cooked to your liking. My recommendation is to leave it slightly pink on the inside for better taste.

When you turn around the pattie to cook on the second side, put the cheese on top so it melts and in the meantime, just assemble the burger! My preference is: Aubergine, mayonnaise & ketchup, tomato meat with cheese and bacon, then aubergine again.

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Instead of Aubergine, you can use Portobello mushrooms if you prefer, they make grabbing the burger easier, more like a bread bun than the Aubergine, but I couldn’t get hold of them this time so I tried this other version!

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Enjoy!

Easy Heathy Dinners: Fake Black Truffle Carbonara Pasta

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I don’t know about your homes, but at mine, some people like to eat pasta for dinner. I can’t blame them, it is delicious and if you get hungry to dinner time, it will make you feel full with no doubt. For me though pasta for dinner is too heavy and it is not healthiest option before bed. As an alternative, a friend recommended me one of those special graters to cut vegetables in the shape of noodles.

What a great idea! So this was my first go at it! A healthier carbonara alternative to traditional pasta.

This was made with zucchini, low fat cream mixed with non-fat soya milk and English smoked bacon, trimmed of the excessive fat.

I promise you it will feel like you are doing something wrong! 😉

Ingredients (serves 2)

4 bacon rashers trimmed of fat

2 zucchinis peeled and cut in noodle shape

2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese grated

1 tbsp. of chopped onion

1 black truffle, grated

Pan fry the bacon with no fat at all, when toasted, add the onion and when this goes transparent, add the cream and milk mixture. Let it simmer for 5 minutes so the sauce gets some consistency and the flavours mix. Add the zucchini and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, serve and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.

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This dish is a bit high in fat, but since the content in carbohydrate is so low, it is not a bad options. Avoid having it on days when your other meals have been fat heavy.

Enjoy!

Tone up!

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Thank god the days of the heroin addict looking supermodels are past us. Today, a more healthy looking beauty standard has emerged, and even thanks to the (dis) likes of the K sisters (sorry cant say the name without cringing) Jennifer Lopez (who started the trend) and others, curves are a welcome improvement, in the search for the perfect body.

Today I would like about the importance of muscle tone and toning for everyone, but specially in people that are following a weight loss diet or are in a calorie deficit regime.

There is something some people don’t seem to understand and it is that certain fast working diets, such as juice fasting and intermittent fasting, even though they could offer you some quick pound dropping, they will do so by eating on your muscle mass.

If you do not maintain an appropriate level of protein intake in your diet, you will be compromising your muscles, which is, what ultimately, give your body a lovely shape.

I have seen people on diet feeding on some small lettuce platters, thinking that was doing wonders for them and then stuffing themselves later on with excessive or the type of carbs or highly fatty foods.

Muscle, my friends, is your biggest ally in the journey to a more active, healthier lifestyle and a better body and actually It burns more calories than fat tissue thus increasing your base metabolism, which is the amount of calories your body uses just to keep you going during a given day, which results in the following easy assumption:

More muscle = higher calorie consumption = less weight gain at the same calorie intake

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Some people wrongly assume that if they want to improve the way they look, they need to spend one hour a day on a treadmill, or an elliptical trainer, but toning exercises such as weight training, increase your fat burning for far longer than a cardio session would do. When you run (or are on an elliptical trainer) you are burning calories as a result of the exercise, on the spot and while you are at it,  but when you activate your muscles with strength training, they will be active and recovering up to 24H, increasing your far burn, improving circulation for far longer than the cardio alone.

What comes with improving circulation is a series of really interesting side effects that have to do with ageing. You only need to have a good look at Madonna for example, and other famous toning experts in the celebrity world. They possess the best defying gravity bodies. Chest, arm and glute muscles, which are the first to suffer with age can be easily recovered with some daily routine of toning moves such as squats & push ups.

Cardio is very important and it is definitely very helpful in fat loss/weight loss processes, but ensuring a correct muscular performance and increasing your muscle mass, will help you not only achieve your goals, but also to keep them in the long term.

My advice is not to be scared of the weights ladies, go to a gym and ask a cute personal trainer to give you an induction on weight training, you will see some stunning results you never thought you would!