Progress with My Healthier Lifestyle

scales 2

A few months ago I posted that I was embarking on a healthier lifestyle and I was hopeful that I would lose weight in the process. The great news is that I have already lost 16 pounds!

I haven’t started a strict fitness regime or started a restricted diet; I have simply made a few changes to my lifestyle and eating habits. Here are the changes I have made to achieve this weight loss:

  • Cut out fizzy drinks
  • Cut down on wine intake
  • Walk back from the school run every morning
  • Stopped eating snacks in bed

Something that has helped is the sugar tax being implemented in the UK. I disagreed with this initially but it has prompted me to stop buying fizzy drinks and to drink water instead. 

If I continue with these few simple lifestyle changes, I am hoping that I will continue to lose weight and lose another 16 pounds before my birthday in November. Wish me luck!

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Brits Told to Diet

fruit and veg

Obesity is increasingly becoming an issue in the UK and in other parts of the world. Being overweight can have a huge impact on health and can potentially lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The obesity crisis is also putting a huge strain on the NHS. For this reason, top health officials are now saying that Brits need to go on a diet.

Last year, the government launched a sugar reduction programme that targeted nine different food groups that are considered unhealthy. This has led to the sugar drinks levy which will come into force in April 2018.

New measures put in place to reduce the number of unhealthy foods that Brits eat will specifically target 13 different food groups and will include processed meat, ready meals, takeaways, and pizzas. The aim is to cut the average calorie consumption of the British by 20% by 2024.

As part of this healthy eating campaign, the food industry is also being urged by the government to use healthier ingredients to help the public reduce their calorie intake.

A spokesperson for Public Health England has said that Britain needs to go on a diet as both adults and children are consuming too many calories and this is the cause of the high rate of obesity in the UK.

These recent measures are part of an ongoing governmental campaign in the UK to improve the overall health of UK citizens and reduce the strain on the NHS. Strategies used so far have included raising awareness of healthy eating through marketing materials and via direct advice from healthcare workers. Children are also being targeted with healthy eating programmes in schools.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-43201586

RECIPE: Easy Tomato, Courgette, and Bell Pepper Soup

tomato soup

Even a culinary novice can whip together a soup as they are one of the easiest dishes to make. This tomato, courgette, and bell pepper soup is quick and simple to make and is perfect as either a starter or a family meal served with bread or croutons. It is also equally as suitable as a warming dish in the winter months or as a refreshing dish during summer. This soup is also cheap to make, packed full of nutrients, and a great vegetarian option. Here is how to make tomato, courgette, and bell pepper soup. 

Ingredients for Tomato, Courgette and Bell Pepper Soup

  • 3 medium courgettes (zucchini)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Handful fresh basil
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Sour cream or creme fraiche for serving
  • Olive oil for cooking

How to Make Tomato, Courgette and Bell Pepper Soup

  1. Chop the onions, peppers, and courgettes then crush the garlic.
  2. Heat some olive oil over a medium heat in a large pan.
  3. Add the chopped onions and peppers and cook until softened.
  4. Add the crushed garlic and chopped courgettes.
  5. Sprinkle over the vegetable stock cubes and add enough boiled water over the vegetables to cover. 
  6. Bring to a simmer and then add the tinned tomatoes.
  7. Season the soup with salt and black pepper to taste.
  8. Take most of the fresh basil and roughly tear before adding to the pan. Save some basil as a garnish for the top of the soup.
  9. Cook the soup for 20 minutes then remove from heat and leave to cool for a while.
  10. Blend the soup, with either a blender or a hand blender, to your preferred consistency. 
  11. Serve into soup bowls and add a swirl of either soured cream of creme fraiche and a sprig of basil.
  12. Serve the soup alone or with croutons or warm crusty bread. 

Tips

Tomatoes- Use fresh tomatoes if you prefer.

Garlic– the garlic is optional and just adds an extra level of flavour. If you are not a fan of garlic, leave this ingredient out. 

Spice it up- If you are a fan of spice, it is simple to add some spiciness to this dish. Either add a chopped chilli or some paprika to the dish; both work well.

Peppers- You can add any colour you like. I only use one red and one yellow for the colour.

10 Things to Do with Avocados

Avocado is commonly referred to as a fruit, although it is actually a berry with one single seed inside. This is a delicious ingredient that is packed full of nutrients and healthy unsaturated fats. Sadly, people are often unsure of what they can make with avocados. They will buy one and then leave it at the bottom of the refrigerator untouched before discarding it. However, this is an extremely versatile ingredient and you can use it in a variety of ways in your cooking. Here are ten things to do with avocados.

  1. Guacamole– Starting with the obvious, guacamole is a delicious dip and there are many variations on recipes. I make it by mashing avocados with a fork and then adding finely chopped red onion, chilli, and lime juice. 
  2. Avocado smoothie- As it is packed with nutrients and has a smooth texture, avocados are perfect for creating smoothies. 
  3. Prawn cocktail filled avocado– A variation on the classic prawn cocktail, add prawns and thousand islands sauce to the centre of an avocado half and serve with a side salad. 
  4. Avocado toast- Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to mashed avocado and spread on toast.
  5. Avocado, crispy bacon, and walnut salad– Avocados are a fantastic addition to any salad. Serve salad leaves with slices of avocado, crispy bacon and walnuts for a nutrient-packed and delicious lunch.
  6. Smashed avocado and smoked salmon bagel– Salmon and avocado are a classic combination. Spread mashed avocado on a bagel before adding slices of smoked salmon. Add a twist of lemon, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
  7. Tortilla wraps with avocado and salad– A healthy lunch option is a soft tortilla wrap filled with chopped avocado, salad leaves, cucumber and cherry tomatoes.
  8. Avocado, crab and chilli- Avocado works well with all types of seafood, including crab. To a halved avocado, add crab meat mixed with chopped chilies and lemon juice. 
  9. Greek-style avocado- Feta cubes and halved cherry tomatoes are the perfect combo for stuffing an avocado.
  10. Avocado and smoked salmon sushi rolls– If you are a sushi fan, try adding avocado. EIther simple roll sushi rice and avocado alone or with salmon.

Reducing Salt Intake In Your Diet

salt

There is a never-ending stream of advice with regards to how people should live a healthier lifestyle.  Doctors, magazines and TV programmes alike are telling everybody to reduce their alcohol intake, quit smoking, eat five fruit and vegetables a day and exercise on a regular basis.  Amongst the things that they tell people that they should be doing is reducing the amount of salt that is in their diets.

The Health Risks

Whilst some salt in your diet is essential.  Too much salt is linked to many illnesses and diseases including heart disease and increasing the risk of having a stroke.  It can also cause damage to the kidneys if eaten in large quantities.  This is bad news for people who crave salt in their diets.  However, there are healthier options for people who crave salt in their diet.

Reduced Sodium Salt

A kitchen essential for those who are trying to reduce their salt intake but enjoy the flavour that salt gives their food is reduced sodium salt.  Using this when preparing food or adding it to food once it is cooked will still give you the flavour of salt, but will have a less harmful effect on your body. This is the first step in cutting back on salt in your food.

Avoid Pre-prepared Foods

Whenever possible, avoid buying pre-prepared foods as these are often high in salt. This applies to food in packets, frozen meals, and tinned food. If you prepare your meals yourself, then you have full control over how much salt goes into the dish. If you must buy ready meals, then choose ones that have reduced salt.  This means that they still contain salt and will have the flavour, but there is a reduced amount in that product, thus making it a healthier option.  Gravy granules are also available in reduced salt varieties.  Gravy is generally a very salty product so this is a good alternative.

Choose Naturally Salty Ingredients

Another tip is to cook with food that has a naturally salty flavour and will not require you to add salt to the dish.  Gammon and bacon are good options as they are naturally salty and will flavour any food that is cooked in the same pan.  You can also save the stock from a gammon joint to add to soups or gravy giving them a meaty, salty flavour.

Use Alternative Flavours

Finally, if it is simply that you feel that food is bland without the addition of salt, then look for alternatives to use in your cooking to add extra taste and flavour to your meals.  Experiment with different herbs and spices to find ones that tantalize your taste buds and use these instead.  They are a much healthier option and you will greatly reduce the amount of salt in your diet by doing this.

Healthy Eating in Italian Restaurants

restaurant

Most people enjoy a good evening out in a restaurant.  It is a great opportunity to let somebody else do the hard work of the meal preparation and the washing up, giving you the opportunity to relax and simply enjoy the food.  One of the most popular types of restaurants that people choose to visit is an Italian restaurant.  However, these are famous for their calorie-laden pizzas and rich pasta sauces. This can be difficult for those who are on a diet or are simply health conscious. In spite of this, much Italian food follows the principles of a healthy Mediterranean diet and lots of healthier options are available.  If you are looking for healthier options when enjoying an evening out in an Italian restaurant, then here are some ideas to give you inspiration for making healthy food choices.

Vegetable Based Dishes 

First, the Mediterranean diet is famous for making use of lots of brightly coloured vegetables, such as courgettes, tomatoes and peppers.  If you are choosing a pasta dish, then opt for one that is served with a sauce based around these ingredients rather than a richer, more unhealthy choice such as a cheese sauce as this is laden with fat and calories and will also lie heavily on your stomach for a long time after your meal leaving you feeling lethargic and bloated.

Meat Options

If you prefer a meat dish, then the healthier option is to look at chicken dishes rather than red meat dishes as these are usually lower in calories, whilst still providing ample amounts of protein.  If the meat is served with a sauce then try to choose a healthier option as previously described to reduce the fat and calorie content of the meal.  Many restaurants will also serve food without the sauce if requested.

Accompaniments

When choosing accompaniments to a meal, ask for salad rather than chips, potatoes or cheesy garlic bread, as many people find themselves overfilled by such carbohydrate heavy accompaniments.

Desserts

When it comes to desserts, it’s probably wise to avoid these altogether.  Many Italian desserts, such as pannacotta, are made using cream and are high in both fat and calories. However, if the temptation is too much, consider a fruit salad or a meringue.   Meringue is low in fat and calories, despite being made from a large amount of sugar.  Ask for any dessert you do choose to be served without additional cream, ice cream or custard.

How to Eat Healthily On a Budget

fruit and veg

One excuse that people often make for being overweight or unhealthy is that they cannot afford to eat well. They believe that eating convenience foods is cheaper than eating fresh foods. This doesn’t have to be the case. As a mum of four, I know how the groceries bill can soon add up but I still like to give my children a varied and balanced diet. Here are some ideas on how to eat healthily even when you are on a budget. 

Stock Up Your Cupboards

Buying lots of items that can be kept in the store cupboard is a good idea as these items will keep well. This will avoid the costs created when food is bought and then not used before its sell-by date. Items like pasta and rice are really cheap and are an excellent source of carbohydrates which are an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. They also provide a lot of different options with regards to meal choice as you can serve them as part of many meals. Similarly, pulses are a really cheap option and are high in protein.  This includes tins of baked beans, although look at the salt content on the labels as this can sometimes be quite high. Tinned fruit and vegetables are also good to keep in your cupboards as they are inexpensive, store for longer and are usually prepared so you will save time as well as money.

Shop Frequently, Buy Less

One of the main reasons why people believe that buying fresh and healthy food is more expensive is because they have a big shop and then throw lots of food away as it has gone off or is past its use by date.  However, if you made the simple change of shopping more frequently and only buying items of food that you are going to use over using for the next few days, then this can be easily avoided.

Grow Your Own Vegetables

This is the ultimate way to save money and eat fresh, healthy foods. To grow a few simple items will not require you to have a large garden or to be particularly green-fingered. If you have a windowsill or a balcony, then you can grow a few vegetables- not enough to feed your family for the next year, but it’s a start.  Packets of seeds cost pence to buy.  Some of the simplest fruit and vegetables to grow yourself are tomatoes and courgettes.  Of course, if you are green-fingered and you have a large garden then you can plant fruit trees, potatoes and any vegetables that your family enjoy. 

Cheaper Cuts of Meat

People often dismiss the cheaper cuts of meat, but these are often the tastiest cuts. They are usually particularly well-suited to longer cooking methods, such as stewing or braising. Therefore, they are ideal for throwing into a slow-cooker with some water and vegetables before you leave for work and you will have a delicious and healthy casserole to come home to at the end of the day. Remember, to remove the fat before cooking!

Offers and Vouchers

Look out for any foods that are on offer or that you have collected vouchers for.  Many supermarkets have offers on healthier items such as fruit and vegetables as they are trying to promote healthier living.