Autumn – shoot with Kudzai

The post these photos were taken for was written for Gymshark and is featured on their blog. Go and take a read for some advice on how to keep active in winter!

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Cold weather shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve got the right clothes

As the days get shorter and weather less and less predictable, keeping active often seems a lot less appealing.

However in the winter, more than ever, it’s important to keep active to maintain a positive mindset and get some fresh air. Something that annoys me is this attitude that spring and summer are the only months when you should take care of your body, and the rest of the year your health just doesn’t matter.

 

To read the rest of this post head to the Gymshark blog. Or, scroll down to see more pictures.

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Vegan pumpkin soup (and more)

The season for pumpkins is undoubtedly now, but what do you actually do with them? Do you carve them and then leave them to rot? Or buy pumpkin spiced lattes in ode to Halloween? Well let me tell you – pumpkins are a hugely under-rated vegetable (actually technically a fruit), filled with all sorts of vitamins and minerals, including carotenoids (great for your eyes), fibre (keeping you fuller for longer), vitamin C (to help fight off those winter colds) and potassium (good for lowering blood pressure)

Looking at a pumpkin though, you might think ‘what the hell do I do with this’? I know I sure did – I wasn’t even sure how to cut it! The great thing about pumpkin it can be used in a huge variety of dishes. Almost the whole pumpkin can be used too, including the seeds.

To cut, I used a serrated knife and cut it in half, before scooping out the seeds into a bowl. See further down on what to do with the seeds! This soup is super (souper) easy to make, makes enough to feed a family and is a perfect side or starter at a dinner with some crusty bread and, for non-vegans, cheese (I recommend gruyere).

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Pumpkins come in all shapes and sizes

Ingredients:

  • 1 pumpkin
  • 1 onion
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 1tbsp vegetable spread (or butter if you’re not vegan)
  • Olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper

 

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
  • Cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds and pith (see bottom with what to do with the seeds) and cut the halves into three each.
  • Score a crisscross pattern into the quarters and place on baking trays covered in baking parchment or tinfoil.
  • Pour olive oil on top of the pumpkin and sprinkle the salt and pepper on top
  • Roast for 30 minutes until soft when poked
  • While the pumpkin is cooking, dice the onion and fry until brown in a saucepan
  • Add the vegetable stock and simmer until pumpkin is cooked
  • Remove the pumpkin from the oven and leave to cool enough to touch it
  • Cut away the flesh from the skin of the pumpkin and place in the food processor
  • Add the vegetable stock and onion mix
  • Blend (in batches if need be)
  • Add salt and pepper to taste and serve!

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To use the seeds: wash using a colander and remove the pith (the orange gooey bit) from them. In a bowl, coat in olive oil, salt and any other seasoning (I LOVE a little curry seasoning for this). Spread on a baking tray and cook until crunchy and very lightly browned. Make sure not to burn! Enjoy as a healthy snack any time of day.

 

OK, so I absolutely hate waste, and sadly soup is hard to make with skins, so what do you do with all those leftover skins? I have 2 ideas – pizza and miso-glazed pumpkin.

 

Miso glaze:

  • 1 tsp miso
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tsp lazy garlic/garlic paste
  • 1tsp lazy ginger/ginger paste

Mix all up and spread on the skins. Bake in the oven for another 15 minutes.

 

Pizza:

  • Tomato paste
  • Oregano
  • Cheese (vegan or real)

Spread the tomato paste on the skins, top with grated cheese and oregano. Bake in the oven for another 15 minutes. Enjoy!

 

I hope these recipes give you some ideas of what to do with one of the most under-rated and best value vegetables/fruits out there. My advice would be to go on Halloween or shortly after, stock up and make all of the above recipes! How do you use your pumpkins?

How to beat the winter blues

It’s inevitable that as the winter draws in and days get darker (thanks clock change) that lots of us will start to feel a little down and start to get the ‘winter blues’. A lot of people in the UK suffer from S.A.D, also known as seasonal affective disorder, a mood disorder that causes otherwise positive people to have symptoms of depression ranging from mild to severe in the winter. Symptoms include excessive sleep, tiredness, lack of motivation, hopelessness and low moods, although the severity can range widely between people and from day to day. Whilst the exact cause isn’t known, it’s though to be to do with low light levels reducing serotonin (the happy hormone) or increasing melatonin (the hormone that allows us to sleep at night). Whatever the cause, it’s an annoying fact of winter for a lot of people, but thankfully it can be managed and reduced. Even for those without SAD, doing some of these management techniques can help with general low mood found around winter.

In my past I suffered from depression, starting in my pre-teens and drawing out for almost 10 years. Over time it diminished, thanks to the support and help of family, friends and professionals. During my late teens and early twenties it manifested as SAD – thankfully sparing me summer months but returning as the weather got colder and days darker. My experience coping with it has allowed me to spend the last two winters in relative peace from the low moods associated with SAD. So here are some of my top tips to keep happy this winter! I hope you find them as useful as I have 🙂

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Autumn is a beautiful time of year – but for many it just means darker days and feeling blue

Get enough sleep – but don’t overdo it!

In winter all I want to do is sleep sleep sleep – biologically scientists think that’s because there used to be less food around in winter and sleeping more would mean using less energy so you didn’t have to eat as much. But nowadays with tesco just down the road and deliveroo at the other end of a phone, we don’t exactly have any food shortages to worry about! Having a good sleep schedule is important at any time of year, but especially when there is no natural light to wake you up. Set yourself a strict bedtime and wake time and try not to deviate from this. That way you’ll be getting enough sleep without getting too much and feeling lethargic from it. I aim to be in bed by 10pm, asleep by 10:15pm and up by 6:45am everyday. Sleeping more than 9h a night can leave you feeling more tired, and restricting sleep to 8-9h means that when you sleep, you sleep deeper – something we all want and need!

 

Exercise

I cannot stress enough that exercise – although it often feels like the last thing you want to do when you’re down – is some sort of miracle drug when it comes to SAD. Of course, as with everything, this is a balance of getting enough workouts without exhausting yourself. My gage is how much I can manage – I tend to do a similar amount, allowing for 2 rest days a week. I try to workout when it’s dark outside – the pumping music and energetic atmosphere allow me to forget how dark it is and get lost in the endorphins of the workout.

 

Fresh air and LIGHT

With a lack of natural light being one cause of SAD and low moods, it’s not surprising that getting natural light is on my list of ways to improve symptoms. If you work full time you’ll be familiar with the sad reality of arriving at work in the dark and leaving in the dark, leaving you no time for some sunshine or even any light! Artificial light doesn’t have the right wavelengths to suppress melatonin enough so broad spectrum lights and natural light are the only two that will help with moods. I would 100% recommend getting outside for at least 20 minutes at lunchtime to make the most of the natural light and get some fresh air to keep you awake. I also have a sun lamp – a broad spectrum light that helps me to wake up and produce vitamin D in the winter – I turn it on as soon as I wake up and eat breakfast with it shining on me. I swear by it to help keep my body-clock in check when it always seems dark outside. If you really struggle with SAD I would recommend getting one of these and using it for 30 minutes every morning.

 

Food

Whilst the winter can leave you reaching for the quickest pick-me-up, it’s important to remember that relying on unhealthy foods for energy can leave you feeling even more down after you eat them, often caused by a sugar crash. High carb meals, whilst delicious, should be saved for days of heavy exercise, as they cause the release of melatonin, which is often what makes you feel sleepy after a big meal. Avoid carb-heavy meals at your desk to avoid this, and try not to increase refined sugar intake, as the crash after your blood-sugar spikes can also cause low moods, not helping the situation. I try to avoid coffee in the winter because I know that if I start I will end up relying on it to feel normal, but on tired days I have some just after lunch to get through the afternoon. Research has shown that if you’re not a morning person, having coffee in the morning can mess up your body clock, making you feel weird and anxious, rather than alert.

 

Talk!

If you’re struggling don’t be afraid to talk to family and friends – the chances are that they’ve probably felt the same way too. Research suggests that up to 40% of depression is genetic and that SAD affects 1 in 15 of the UK population. Talking through how you’re feeling (or even just talking about anything) can help alleviate symptoms. Having supportive friends and family around can make the difference between letting SAD ruin your whole winter and managing your low moods and coming out the other side with an even stronger support system. Make the most of them – they’re there because they love you and want to support you. Use that!

 

Self-care

Make time for yourself and don’t ignore your feelings. Run a nice hot bath, light some candles and just sit, enjoying your ‘me’ time. I’m definitely guilty of pretending that I don’t need time alone, and will sometimes go for a week without spending an evening by myself. For many people, all they want is to be alone when down, but for others it’s only too easy to ignore thoughts by keeping too busy. There’s a fine line between keeping busy and ignoring your personal needs. Set aside at least one day/evening a week to pamper yourself to show your body (and mind) some love. Do a little yoga, mediation or just read a good book – it’ll do wonders for your inner energy.

 

I really hope these tips help you manage any winter blues you may be feeling – they’re common, everyone has their days but there are lots of things you can do to help minimise the bad days. For me, rather than being 3 months of feeling horrible, winter now comes with only a few bad days here and there, meaning I am left to enjoy the festive season with family and friends as it is meant to be enjoyed.

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Make sure to eat well and get enough vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy in winter

Blackberry protein sponge

This cake uses some strange ingredients that you might not usually associate with cakes, but once you taste it you’ll see why! The chickpea keeps the cake moist without becoming dense and the blackberries give it a pleasant tang that stops it being too sweet or bland.

If you are vegan, the whole cake can be made vegan by using egg substitute and vegan protein (although be aware – vegan protein absorbs more liquid, so you may need to add a splash of water or almond milk). As it is, this cake packs in a huge amount of protein and important fibre so definitely constitutes a very healthy treat.

You can make this into one large loaf using a loaf tin or alternatively you can make 2 small round cakes, which you can stack together like a Victoria sponge cake. I use cashew cream and homemade blackberry jam for the filling.

I would 100% recommend you pick your own blackberries for this – not only is that free but also they taste amaaaaazing and you get the gratification of working for your dessert. Now is the season and they’re everywhere so have a forage!

Macros (cake only): 270cals, F: 12g, C: 24.2, P: 15.5

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Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml honey (may need less with sweeter protein powder)
  • 50ml vegetable oil
  • 100ml almond milk
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 100g vanilla/unflavoured protein
  • 100g self-raising wholemeal/white flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 150g – 200g blackberries

Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C (160 fan)
  • Blend together all the liquid ingredients with the chickpeas until smooth (a couple of minutes)
  • In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients to blend
  • Fold in the dry ingredients into the chickpea liquid mix
  • Add half the blackberries and mix (it should be easy
  • Pour into a deep greased tin, preferably with a removable base (or two shallow round tins for filled sponge) and place the remaining blackberries on top
  • Cook for 35-40 minutes if in shallow tins or 45 minutes if in loaf tin. Check with cake prodder to see if it comes out clean. This may take an hour to cook in a deep tin
  • Remove from the oven; keep in tin and let cool on wire rack. Remove from tin when cooler and leave to cool further on the rack. Do not cut until at room temperature.
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If you sandwich the cakes you should level off the lower one using a bread knife

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Spread on the jam and cashew cream thickly, leaving some space at the edges

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Sandwich and enjoy!

How Sweet (potato) It Is

The sweet potato is a bit of a misnomer – it is, in fact a tuber, part of the root system that contains nutrients for a plant. Therefore sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients that are essential for humans, including vitamins A, B5, B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and carotenoids (the nutrient that gives them their orange colour). Carotenoids and vitamin A are essential for good eye sight, and also contain lots of antioxidants, essential for repair of the body and the prevention of cancer. A large sweet potato contains more than 100% of your RDA of vitamin A and fewer calories than a white potato. It’s also high in vitamin C, slowing ageing and maintaining skin elasticity. What’s not to love about this miracle vegetable?

Here are some recipes to keep your sweet potato addiction interesting. Enjoy!

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Sweet potato fries/wedges:

  • Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees
  • Scrub one large/2 small sweet potatoes to remove dirt (no need to peel)
  • Chop into fry shapes (either thick wedges or thinner slices for fries)
  • Drizzle on olive oil, salt, chilli flakes, paprika and black pepper and mix to coat
  • Put on a baking tray and roast until golden, about 40-45 minutes.
  • Enjoy!
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L to R: Avocado and tahini, almond butter, egg with chilli flakes, cashew nut butter

Sweet potato toast:

  • Scrub one small to medium sized sweet potato
  • Cut into the thinnest slices possible (1/4-1/2 inch thick)
  • Place in a bowl, cover and cook in the microwave for 5 minutes
  • Remove and place into a toaster until cooked through and brown at the edges (this may take 2-3 times)
  • Top with topping of choice – both savoury and sweet work well

 

Sweet potato and chickpea curry:

  • (Peel and) chop one large sweet potato and boil until tender
  • Chop one onion and a clove of garlic
  • Fry in some oil, and mix in 1tsp turmeric, 1tbsp garam masala, a pinch of chilli flakes and 1tbsp ground coriander
  • Drain one 400g tin of chickpeas and add to the pan
  • Add 100-200g spinach and put a lid on the pan to wilt the spinach
  • Once wilted, add the drained sweet potato to the pan and mix

 

Sweet potatoes are versatile, cheap and delicious. Anywhere normal potatoes are used, try switching to sweet potatoes. They’re easily cooked in the microwave, on the hob or in the oven, so can be used in all sorts of recipes!

Motion Nutrition guest post – how to avoid SAD in winter

This post was originally written by Joe and Charlie, the boys at Motion Nutrition, my favourite supplement brand. And they know a think or two about health. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is something that I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember, and from talking to lots of you, I know that I am not alone in this fact! By taking certain steps in your everyday routine, you can minimise the amount that SAD affects you this winter. Finding out what works for you means you can be a lot happier and get along with your everyday life as you would otherwise.

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Staying in bed all day certainly SEEMS like a good idea when it’s colder than you’re ex’s heart outside, but can actually be counterproductive  (photo by @ajanistry)

“It’s getting cold and it’s getting dark. We’ve had it pretty easy so far with a mild autumn. But the clocks are now set: we must brace for winter. You may be lucky enough to still catch a few sun rays in the morning on your way to work, but that glimpse of morning daylight won’t last long. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is an easy trap to fall into as we enter winter months. But it certainly is not inevitable.

Here are 4 dangerous habits you must avoid this winter to ditch SAD

  1. Staying indoors all day

Unless you work outdoors, the likelihood is that you spend almost your entire work days inside the confines of your office, gym, studio, workshop or classroom. As the days get shorter, this will mean very, very little sunlight, if any at all. So make a point of getting outside during your lunch break. The sunlight will energise you, the fresh air will oxygenate your brain and muscles. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a little vitamin D (although this is unlikely at this time of year, so you may wish to consider a high quality vitamin D supplement).

  1. Skipping your workouts

We all know the feeling. It’s warm inside; cold, dark (and wet?) outside. Who would want to ditch the blanket and step outside for a jog? It’s oh-so-easy to get lazy in the winter. But physical activity will not only ward off anxiety and feelings of winter-depression, it will also boost your self-esteem, reduce stress and improve your sleep. So get out (or to the gym) and bag yourself an endorphin high!

  1. Eating too much comfort food

There’s nothing wrong with a bubbling tray of crispy-cheese-topped mac’n’cheese every once and a while. But make sure you are not foregoing micronutrients in the winter months. Remember to pack in the fresh fruit and veg. Think seasonal, too: beetroots are great for juicing, and we’ll soon be hit with brilliant oranges and tangerines.

  1. Not getting enough sleep

What would happen to our sleep if we went back a couple hundred years to when we didn’t have electricity and certainly didn’t have digital screens? We would sleep less during summer, and more during winter. Lack of sunlight, high levels of stress, and you guessed it, too much comfort food will make you crave more sleep during the winter. There is a balance to be found here: get some sunlight in during the day so you’re not going in full hibernation mode. But don’t overdo it on computer, phone, and TV screens at night (the blue light from the screen keeps you awake just like sunlight) so that you can give your mind and body enough rest to brave the colder days.

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Koalas are cute but they sleep 18 hours a day. Don’t be a koala.

Need an energy kick to untangle yourself from that warm blanket? Try our Award Winning Organic Pre Workout Energiser now.”

 

Many thanks to Charlie and Joe for this one! Don’t forget to check out their range of products. They really are the most effective I’ve tried, and without the crap so many other companies put in! And no, I’m not sponsored by them 😉