India: farm lands

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As promised… Another collection of views from my trip.

 

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Food & Colours

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We all like to eat pretty. We are more willing to try new foods when those are presented to us in a nice way, we eat with our eyes. Colourful arrangements are more succesful than boring brown bowls of lentils, delicious as those may be!

The key to helping others or ourselves try and love new foods or make our meal times for enjoyable, is to find little tricks to make our food as attractive as possible. Think about eye candy since this works for everything in life, from beautiful people to expensie clothes… everything displayed nicely is desired, and costs more.

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I have been playing around with colours lately and this is my take on green, a colour that wouldnt necessarily make part of desserts until you get familiarized with Matcha, the japanese green tea that is packed with antioxidants and stimulants that is great to burn fat and minimise the effect of the free radicals.

So what about combining the great properties of matcha powdered tea with another superfood, the chia seed?? Well then we have a lovely dessert that is full of protein, fibre, good fats, antioxidants and fat burning properties.

In case you havent heard it before, matcha is not a tea as such, it is a vibrant green powder that is made with the green tea leaf in its entirety, that is why it has such powerful benefits compared to the infusion of the leaves.

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You can find this powder in any asian shop and also in most health food stores now a days, it is quite expensive but very little goes a long way. Just half a teaspoon is enough to make a full cup of it.

The recipe for this dessert, as simple as it gets is as follows:

Ingredients (4 small portions)

4 tbsp. Chia seeds

400 ml coconut milk

1 tsp vanilla essence

Sweetener

1 tsp matcha powder

Cherries or any other fresh berry to decorate

How to?

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients except the fruit, mix well with a whisk and let the chia seeds reach their full size (they absorb the liquid) until they take a loose pudding consistency.

Distribute in your ramekins or serving pots and when you serve, decorate with a cherry or berry. Very sweet, and healthy! Oh, and totally vegan so perfect for Meatless Monday!

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Lean Sunday Roast

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One of the most important barriers when taking control of one’s diet, is the excuses to one self that come from absolutely rightful issues. My favourite of all times is the lack of time one.

Lack of time is actually a fallacy, we all have 24h in the day, the only difference is how do we make our use of them, which is generally according to our priorities.

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When you have kids, the time seems to disappear between your fingers and the things that suffer the most are generally your own wellbeing and more and more in our society, the home cooking.

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There is simply no time for it. This is a mistake because our children are learning what we are teaching them as parents, if we do not cook at home and we don’t take care of our diets, they will learn the same patterns and they will grow up to be individuals with really bad habits.

 

Today I want to share a recipe that will allow you to both, home cook and teach your children some good nutrition basics, and also will enable you to get easy access to a healthy lunches during the week, even if you don’t have kids, this is the foundation of food prepping.

It is as simple as cooking extra. Are 2 at home? 4?? Then cook twice as much and simply pack away the extra portions in neat Tupperware in the fridge. On Sunday I generally cook my lunch and breakfast for Monday to Thursday and on Thursday eve, I cook extra and make another portion for Friday.

 

Today’s super easy recipe is a Lean Sunday Roast.

The particularities of this roast versus the one served at the pub is that this one doesn’t contain simple carbs, so we will not have the traditional gravy, but a lower fat and carb alternative, and we will also be skipping the potatoes in favour of some celeriac root. With regards to the Yorkshire pudding, I skip them altogether, but you can bake your own using wholegrain spelt flour, however, if you have enough veggies and roast, you won’t actually need it, it will just make your digestion heavier and you will end up feeling bloated!

 

Ingredients:

1 lean cut of beef to roast (1.5 kg would feed 4 and 4 portions would be leftovers)

3 peppers of different colours

4 onions peeled and cut in rings

1 courgette/zucchini

1 aubergine

2 carrots

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

½ a celeriac root

Fresh rosemary

½ a glass of white wine

Salt & pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

 

Pre heat the oven at 180C and in a big oven tray, set all the chopped vegetables. Chop them in medium chunks trying to end up with similar size pieces so they cook evenly. Season with salt, pepper and rosemary and sprinkle with a bit of olive oil and some water.

Rub the piece of meat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, set in a tray or directly on top of the vegetables and roast for about 45 minutes depending on the size of the piece.

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Bear in mind that all the juices of the vegetables and the meat will be in the tray so you can recover them from the parchment. In order to make the gravy, take a piece of the roasted courgette and a piece of the celeriac and mash them with the sauce so it becomes a bit thicker. Add more salt to it if needed and serve with the meat.

 

Serve a good portion of roasted vegetables and 2 or 3 thin slices of meat.

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For the rest of the week: boil some lentils and in a Tupperware divide the remaining meat and vegetables and complement with one or two tablespoons of boiled lentils and you will have a full size meal, with lots of protein, low in fat and in simple carbs that will keep you up all afternoon.

Happy week dieters.

Detoxing for ever

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The word in everybody’s mouth this January, and every single January if we are being honest, because new year resolutions seem to last only as long as this first month, then the reality of a lifetime of built habits come to haunt us and drag us back to the snack section of the supermarket and to hang our gym clothes until the summer pops its head around the corner.

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The problem with these so called “detox” is that they often do more harm than good.¨

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So instead of talking about what is bad about detox diets that will leave you with less muscle and starving for sugar, not to mention in a perfect metabolic condition for a yoyo effect, (if you are interested on this, you can check my previous post about Bulimia and other diets) I will offer you and alternative method of detox that will help you:

  • Cleanse your body after a period of overindulging eating
  • Return to your previous weight or start a weight loss diet without risking your health
  • Fill you up with energy that will not peak and then leave you tired, but a consistent rate through the day
  • Increase your metabolism so you burn more calories even when you are not exercising
  • A more toned physique, that will your body a beautiful shape

 

If any of those appeal to you, continue reading.

This is a starters guide to a healthier life, and I will be digging deeper in the forthcoming weeks on each one of the principles of the method, which is just based on the implementation of some healthy habits in your life, just one by one. Today we will speak about the diet, since this is what will make the biggest impact on your life. You might have heard that “no amount of exercise can outdo a bad diet” this is very true, and for some of us, the percentage might as well be higher, the good part about this, is that if you cannot do exercise or sports during a particular period of your time, you still get to manage your weight just by learning to eat better and clearing some misconceptions.

 

The first rule of the good eater is… To know EXACTLY how much you should be eating. Nutritional recommendations have promoted the idea that most of us women need 2000 calories and day and most man 2500, this for a person that is physically very active might be true, but there are many variables that affect your nutritional needs:

  • Your height
  • Your current weight
  • Your body composition
  • Your level of activity

 

In order to calculate your needs, you can find some very useful online calculators, I like one in the site bodybuilding.com. You can access it here and just fill in the information required:

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/macronutrients_calculator.htm

Which takes me to the second rule: to know exactly WHAT you should be eating. This affects the amount of each food group you should be eating (Protein, Carbohydrate and Fats) and how much of each should you be eating, since the right split of them will do an awful lot of a difference to your body composition.

For example, someone that eats too little protein, will have trouble maintaining their muscle mass, which might make them lose weight but look sick and undernourished and not healthy and toned, which is a lot more appealing. Not eating enough fats can put your health at risk and removing the carbohydrates is not a permanent solution and most likely will just deplete you of water.

The above link will tell you the exact number of grams and calories from each nutritional group that you should be eating every day.

 

Wait!! Don’t get frustrated just yet, learning to count your nutrients is not for beginners, but it is good for you to know it, so you can follow it broadly when composing your meals.

A normal split for people that are trying to lose weight but not in a competitive sport, would be 40% carbs, 35% protein and 25% fats.

How do you then do this??

A simple way of calculating is by filling a small to medium size plate with: 1 portion of protein (this is about 120 grams of chicken, 100 grams of red meat, or a 150- 200 gr of white fish, same as red meat if its blue fish which has a higher amount of fat) this should occupy ¼ to 1/3 of your plate then fill up with vegetables (greens and tomatoes, peppers etc but no starchy vegetables) these should take up ½ your plate.

The rest, should the ¼ of your plate more or less, should be filled with carbs, normally this is a couple of spoonful’s.

 

Simple rules to choose your food:

 

Protein: lean sources are best!! Chicken, turkey, lean pork loin, white fish, lean beef (less than 5% fat) and cottage cheese, 0% quark and 0% Greek yogurt Other proteins that are higher in fats such as lamb, cuts of meat with a lot of fat, or even salmon and eggs are best eaten in moderation (twice a week for eggs and salmon and only occasionally for the others)

 

Carbohydrates: complex or slow burning carbohydrates are always the best choice, this is because their unprocessed nature respects the integrity of their nutrients and have kept all their fibre and vitamins, this makes them keep you fuller for longer and feed you better at the same time that have less impact on your weight loss plans by not spiking your blood sugar levels. This is important because when that happens, your body activates a series of metabolic processes that in the end, make your body more likely to store fat.

 

Good carbs: peas, beetroots, beans (chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, black beans…) pumpkins, wholegrain pasta, wild, brown, black rice, 100% wholegrain bread particularly made of ancient cereals like spelt, oat specially oat bran and quinoa.

(most of this also have a significant amount of protein, specially the beans, but they have a lower bio availability than those of animal protein so they have to be consumed with them or cereals to complement them, this is particularly important for some on a vegetarian or vegan diet). Fruits are excellent sources of carbs, but I will comment on them separately.

“Bad” carbs: potatoes (although sweet potato can be used as a good carb), white bread, white rice, pasta, particularly fresh pasta, any refined sugar or sugary product.

Fruits: they are mainly composed of carbohydrate so they need to be eaten in moderation and avoid them after 6 or 7 pm. The best ones amongst them are the ones with higher amounts of fiber.

Best fruits: apple, pear, all berries (blueberry, blackberry, raspberry and strawberry, these can even be eaten at night because of their very low sugar content) kiwi fruits, nectarines, peaches and citric fruits.

Higher sugar fruits: mangoes, khakis, bananas, grapes, all dried fruits, fruit juices even if freshly made.

 

It is perfectly fine to eat a couple of pieces a day and this counts as carbohydrate so for example if you have a salad with steak for lunch, you can complement with a couple of mandarins.

 

Fats: always bear in mind that all the fats count, the cooking fats and the ones that belong to the food you are eating. Some foods contain little to none fat (fruits and beans or cereals) and others contain a lot like salmon and avocados. We need ALL types of fat to function correctly but it is true that from the “bad fats” we need so little that we get it in our diet regardless, what we do not get enough of if we don’t make an effort, is the omega 3 monounsaturated fats, that contribute to optimal cardiovascular function. Always prime these as sources of fat in your diet.

Best fats: avocado, blue fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna) chia seeds, olive oil, coconut oil

“Bad” Fats: animal origin fats from milk (butter and whole milk) and fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb. Poultry skin.Bad fats can and must be part of the diet, but it is better to eat only sparingly, specially if you are trying to lose weight.

 

Third rule: when should you be eating?? This is a difficult questions and there are many approaches like fasting etc, some swear that their approach burns off fat but there is no scientific diet that validates one or the other, So I will simply say, do whatever works for you. As long as during the day you are eating enough of the foods that you are supposed to be eating, you are ok. If you are someone that is happy with 2 meals a day, maybe that is fine for you!

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However, for a normal human being, a frequent intake of food (every 2 to 4 hours) of smaller amounts is best because:

  • Makes your digestions easier, the heavier a meal, the longer and more work will take your body to digest and this can lead to the terrible “after eating” effect of needed a nap.
  • Keeps your energy levels
  • Helps with the blood sugar levels
  • Activates the metabolism and burns more calories since the digestive system is also a group of muscles, that burn energy when they move.

 

My recommendation: Have a breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, light dinner, after dinner snack.

Of course you could also have a mid morning snack and no after dinner, or both or eliminate one if you are not hungry… for me these food intakes happen at 9:15 am, 12:30 am, 4 pm, 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm and my bedtime is 10:30 pm. I wake up at 6:30 every morning to work out which I find easier fasted and helps me boost the fat burning effect of the exercise.

So this is the task for this week:

Eliminate unhealthy snacks, processed drinks, carbonated drinks, juices, and sugars and try to have a set of 5 smaller meals a day. Each one of them has to have a small amount of carbs, a big portion of vegetables and a portion of lean protein.

No alcohol of course and try to get 8 hours of sleep.

This will detox you way more effectively than any juice fasting out there.

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In order to help you build your own menu, I have here the example for one day, all the recipes are available in the blog.

 

Breakfast: Oat bran porridge with light soy milk and a kiwi fruit

Lunch: Hake fillet, pan fried with green beans and boiled lentils.

Afternoon snack: Protein yogurt and a small apple

Dinner: tuna steak oven roast with green salad dressed with olive oil and vinegar

After dinner snack: 1 square of 70% cocoa chocolate with 5 almonds and a cup of tea

 

Breakfast: Yogurt with almond butter, ½ a banana and sprinkled sliced almonds

Lunch: Chicken paella with black rice, onions and peppers and cauliflower

Afternoon snack: a small pear and 10 almonds or 20 peanuts or 1 tbs no added sugar peanut butter

Dinner: zucchini soup and prawn skewer with lemon

After dinner snack: 1 square 70% cocoa chocolate

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Next week I will take another step into our healthy lifestyle, stay tuned! And remember if you have questions about your particular case, please get in touch!

The Perfect Roast Chicken (For dummies)

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It is funny how the most basic recipes are the ones that have a million variations and everyone considers theirs the best, still, it is rare to be served a perfectly roast chicken. One that is golden and crunchy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside.

Whole roast chicken is easy to undercook and be raw inside (disgusting and unsafe, since chicken meat has to be cooked, it is not like red meat) or overcooked, in which case it is dry a day in the dessert with no water.

It is flavorful on its own, but it does greatly improve if seasoned properly. It accepts many types of marinade, from indian curries to piri piri but the one that bring out the best of it without masking its flavour, is the one I am sharing today.

It’s my mother’s recipe, in the years of my life, I have never ever seen anybody eat this dish and not love it, want to have a second serving, asking for the recipe, or all of the above.

From a nutritional point of view, chicken is one of the leanest meats that exist, but chicken skin is very high in fat. For this reason, I would recommend not eating the skin if you are trying to lose weight. If you are not, enjoy it by all means, but bear in mind this is the part of the chicken that has the highest amount of toxins so enjoy with great moderation.

On the other hand it is low carb, as opposed to the traditional gravy, this recipe has a sauce made of white wine so it makes it low GI, and also gluten free.

Before going on to the recipe, bear in mind that the cooking time varies depending on the SIZE of the piece that you are trying to roast and the temperature. I find that the perfect temperature in my oven is 180 degrees but it depends on the machine since it can change from one manufacturer to another, but round around that should be to avoid the chicken from burning and still cook it appropriately.

To give an easy cooking time guide:

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Around 800-900 grams : 1 hour

From 1kg to 1.2 kg : 1 hour and 15 minutes

From 1.3kg to 1.5 kg: 1:30 to 1:40 h

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Ingredients (serves 4)

1 chicken

2 tbsp. of garlic powder or 3 cloves of garlic mashed

1 tbsp. Rosemary

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

½ tbsp. salt

250 ml. of cooking wine (white)

Optional : you can add small baking potatoes if you are cooking for your friends (avoid if you are trying to lose weight, potatoes are pure starch which works like sugar in your blood and will sabotage your efforts by creating a high sugar blood pike and turning your energy to fat to be stored, probably in your hips, tights or wherever you want it less)

Ok so it is time to get our hands dirty! Quite literally as well. Pre heat the over at 180C degrees.

Mix in a little bowl all the dry spices, add the oil and rub your little winged friend until he is completely covered in the mixture. With the rest and if you have decided to add potatoes , you can rub the potatoes, don’t worry about making more for them, the sauce will cover them and they will have plenty of flavour.

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Set the chicken in an oven proof baking tray (with some depth so the wine doesn’t spread and/or fall later on.

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Place the chicken in the middle of the oven with the fan on so the air keeps circulating and let it cook for 30 to 40 minutes and when that side is turning nice and golden turn it around with the help of two spatulas (depending on how much time you have to cook it for, if it’s a small bird turn around after half an hour).

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20 minutes before the time is up, open the over and pour the wine on top of the chicken, let it finish and have a look at it. If you like it really brown and it is not there yet, turn on the grill and give it a 5 minute notch. Bear in mind it is very easy to overdo it with the grill and burn it, so keep an eye on it while you do it.

Serve with salad, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts…

Tip: if you want a lower fat version, pour all the sauce in a bowl, let it cool down in the fridge and remove the drops of fat at the top, then reheat and incorporate.

Easy & Healthy Zucchini gratin

 

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Like everybody else, every time I listen to the word gratin, my mouth waters, and then my brain sends me a clear message, stay away, it will take hours on a treadmill to burn off all that fat… This might be true when eating out and it is still a not so healthy option, but  when eating in, nothing stops you from enjoying a gratin once in a while.

I have chosen zucchini for this recipe because it is an easy and fast cooking veggie that is very low in carbs and cals and goes really well with dairy produce.

You can substitute them for cauliflower, green asparagus, broccoli… but this particular one when it’s done, looks a bit like a pizza, and it can be a really good way to make children eat their veggies 😉

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Ingredients (serves 2):

1 Zucchini

100 ml of half fat cream

100 ml of low fat milk

75 gr of low fat mozzarella cheese grated

75gr of gruyere or parmesan cheese grated

Salt and pepper

 

Pre heat the oven to 170C.

Wash the zucchini and cut it into really thin roundels. The thinner the better, discard the two ends of it and set the roundels in an oven proof tray forming a layer of slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix the milk and the cream in a bowl and pour over the zucchini, cover with the cheese evenly making sure the cheeses are mixed.

Bake for 15 minutes then turn on the grill and bake for 5 more minutes until the cheese is toasted and looks like a gratin. It will depend on your oven and the distance between the tray and the grill, so keep an eye on it as it can burn really quick!

You can also use this dish as a side dish for a lean protein source such as chicken or grilled fish.

Enjoy!

Low fat & Delicious Broccoli & Stilton Soup

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So as part of my broccoli recipe series, here you have a very easy and healthy soup. Super easy to make and very quick.

It is pretty similar to the zucchini soup I posted a while ago, but then again, this is the base for most vegetable soups. The base of I cook the is to avoid starchy vegetables to give it texture and instead, I use onions. In order to minimise the fat in it, I use a tiny bit of olive oil and I cook it at a very low heat and moving it continuously, so it doesn’t burn.

If you find this difficult, you can always add a bit of water to the onion at the beginning and once it was evaporated, carry on with the recipe as it is explained here.

This is a very traditional British soup and due to the high amount of fibre in broccoli, is also very filling. For this very reason, you might need to add more water to the mixture for it to blend nicely to the right texture.

Ingredients:

1/2 a Broccoli (depending on size)

1 large onion (you want the onion and broccoli to be more or less the same volume when uncooked)

1 Beef stock cube

50gr. Stilton Cheese

Extra virgin Olive Oil

Water

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In a medium cooking pot, heat up 1/2 tbsp. of olive oil. Chop the onion in large pieces and cook in the oil until transparent.

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Wash and cut the broccoli and add it to the onion, Stir, add the beef stock cube and then 1 and half cups of water.

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Let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the broccoli is cooked. Add the stilton cheese and blend until smooth with the hand blender.

Test the flavour and add more cheese or salt if required.

Soooo easy and so healthy! Low fat, low GI, high fibre and full of goodness!

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