Pigs in slankets

Pig in blankets are one of the most popular Christmas-time recipes, but are about as un vegan friendly as it gets! For health, environmental and ethical reasons, these could be a better option – whilst they’re essentially nothing like the traditional recipe (hence why I called them pigs in slankets), in my opinion they’re significantly tastier!

I use Linda McCartney sausages for this but use whichever are your favourite. If you’re vegan be careful as some do contain egg!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 aubergine, thinly sliced
  • Rapeseed oil
  • 1tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • Salt
  • 12 vegan sausages (I use Linda McCartney)
  • 1tbsp Tahini
  • Salt, pepper
  • Chilli flakes

 

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees and cook the sausages according to the packet instructions
  • Place the aubergine slices in a bowl and drizzle in rapeseed oil, sweet chilli sauce, salt and pepper until all the slices are coated
  • Spray a griddle pan with oil and heat
  • Place the aubergine on the griddle pan in batches, turning after one side is cooked so both sides are browned
  • Wrap each sausages in an aubergine slice (you should be able to wrap all 12)
  • Mix together tahini, salt and pepper and drizzle on top of the sausages
  • Sprinkle on some chilli flakes and serve!

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Stuffed butternut squash

Traditional Christmas recipes are great, but they’re not known for being particularly healthy or vegetarian/vegan friendly! Christmasses gone past I would have just eaten the vegetables in Christmas meal but I’ve really enjoyed creating new recipes this year from scratch, including this delicious one! This is perfect either as a centrepiece to a meal or some additional veg.

The puy lentils add plenty of protein and mixed with the sun-dried tomatoes give an amazing flavour to the squash. Drizzle in as much olive oil as you like!

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Ingredients:

  • 3-4 butternut squash, halved with seeds removed
  • 150g quinoa
  • 180g whole chestnuts
  • 50g sundried tomatoes
  • 250g read to eat puy lentils
  • drizzle olive oil
  • 50g pitted black olives
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees
  • Oil the halved squashes and place in the oven to cook for 45 minutes
  • Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to the instructions on the packet
  • When cooked, mix together all the ingredients in a bowl
  • Remove the squashes from the oven and spoon out some of the insides. Mix these bits into the quinoa and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Spoon as much quinoa as you can into the holes in the squash halves and place back into the oven for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and enjoy!

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Vegan Gingerbread

This recipe is perfect for Christmas (and honestly any time of year yes please), and is just so easy to make! This makes so many biscuits and they’re perfect for storing and having as a mid-morning snack. Let me know if you make these – I’d love to see your creations!

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Ingredients:

  • 1tbsp chia seeds
  • 300g plain flour
  • 100g coconut flour
  • 1/2tsp baking powder
  • 150g muscovado sugar
  • 2tbsp ginger
  • 1/2tbsp cinnamon
  • Sprinkle of ground cloves
  • 100g coconut oil
  • 100g dairy free margarine
  • 50ml dairy free milk

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Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees
  • Mix the chia seeds with 3tbsp water and leave to thicken
  • Mix together the flour, coconut flour, baking powder, sugar and spices in a mixing bowl
  • Heat the margarine and coconut oil and mix together. Mix in the chia seed mix with a fork until incorporated
  • Pour oils into the dry mixture and mix.
  • Add the milk slowly and mix in until the mix is holding together
  • Leave to thicken before rolling out on top of clingfilm (it will be easier to do in 2 batches)
  • Cut out whatever shapes you like and place on a tray with baking parchment (or foil)
  • Place in the oven and cook until browning at the edges, 10-15 minutes (depending how soft you like them)
  • Let cool and ice (or not) as desired!

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Christmas confidence

Are you an introvert or extrovert? A mixture of both?

I used to class myself firmly in the introverted category, avoiding social situations where possible and finding myself feeling reluctant and awkward any time a situation required speaking real words to real people. Even now I find myself beating myself for saying X because no one laughed, or patting myself on the back when people seem genuinely interested in what I have to say.

I don’t think that talking to people with ease comes naturally to most people, and lots of us find it actively uncomfortable, but there are ways to make it less so, and maybe even enjoy it. There is nothing wrong with wanting to stay at home instead of go out and socialise (trust me), but as we head towards the Christmas season it might be helpful to try a few things in case you find yourself being dragged to a Christmas party where you know no one (events where I know no one still give me pretty bad anxiety).

Being an introvert is no bad thing, in fact it gives you qualities only someone who has spent a lot of time in their own company can have. But instead of finding yourself hiding in the loos (tick) or by the food counter shovelling food into your mouth so no one can talk to you (also tick), wouldn’t it be nice to get something from parties? Find a reason to enjoy them and relax? Here are a few tips that I’ve found helpful over the years – I still get anxious and socially awkward internally, but for the most part these tips have helped me enjoy almost all the events I go to, find new friends and have great conversations I would never have had if I had avoided people from the start.

 

Body language
This may seem a bit ‘fake it ‘til you make it’, but some evidence suggests that acting confident with your body language can actually make you feel more in control. Looking into people’s eyes is another thing that makes you appear confident, but this actually takes a lot of practise to get right if you’re not used to it. However, it can really help you connect with people and help them feel more at ease around you. Related to this is smiling – I can’t stop smiling now, it’s just a habit (and usually I’m pretty happy anyway). Everyone loves a smiley person. Everyone should do it more 🙂

Don’t worry what people think about you
This goes for anything – you shouldn’t spend your life thinking that you should/shouldn’t do X, Y or Z because people will like you more/less for it. It’s impossible to please everyone, and in trying you are putting yourself second. The only way to be able to make others happy is to also be happy and confident in yourself. Putting others first and worrying what people think all the time is unhealthy and can never lead to true happiness. Self-confidence needs to come from within, otherwise by definition it’s not really self-confidence. Life is too short to worry about wearing or doing something: just do it.

Find people you recognise
Finding people you recognise at the beginning of an event can help make you feel comfortable, but equally they can introduce you to people you would not otherwise have met. Anyone they introduce you to already has something in common with you – you both know your mutual friend, which is a good starting point! I also often think of parties a little bit like networking opportunities – new people you meet could be friends or business partners in the future. It may seem a weird way of looking at it, but for me that gives a focus for the party. Meet people, enjoy good conversation and network at the same time.

Wear clothes you feel comfortable in
This is important both physically and mentally. I used to try to wear ‘in fashion’ whatever, but quite frankly I couldn’t care less what’s in fashion now. I love clothes and I think they’re great for self-expression, but trying to impress people with clothes, when secretly you’re dying because you can’t breathe or you feel worried your left boob is going to pop out of your new top any second, is not cool. Wear clothes you love (yay sports clothes!) and own it.

 

This may seem like a bit of a random post for my blog, and I wasn’t sure about doing it. However, a few years ago it was just the sort of thing I wish someone had helped me with, especially in the run up to Christmas, and if I can’t be honest on my blog, where can I be? If this helps just one or two people be more confident this year, then it’s done its job. Just remember, you are enough as you are, you don’t need to impress anyone (seriously), and you should do what makes you happy. You do you.

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What christmas should be about – enjoying a relax and spending time with friends and family

 

The truth about detoxes

I was asked to write this article as an ‘unbiased piece on the popular detoxes on sale after christmas’, showing which worked, which to avoid and including my advice on the matter. I found it impossible to remain unbiased – the ‘popular detoxes’ on the market aren’t healthy and could in no way be recommended to anyone. At best they’re a waste of time and money, and at worst they could do you some damage. Have a read and let me know what you think!

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If you Google ‘post Christmas detox’, you get 2,970,000 results. Some of the advice is helpful (eat your greens, don’t eat too much cake) but some of it could be downright harmful (cut out all wheat/sugar/dairy/food from your diet). It’s not uncommon for people to gain a few pounds over Christmas. Students, especially, when they come home from perhaps not the best diet (halls food and/or budget meals) to home made roast potatoes and their favourite desserts, are likely to indulge on the free food – hence that ‘Christmas bulge’. As you may remember, before Christmas there was a piece in Epigram on whether or not you should allow yourself to indulge in all the Christmas food you like, or whether you should show restraint and perhaps not go back for seconds. The overwhelming message was that Christmas is there to be enjoyed, and part of the joy is eating excellent food until you pass out on the sofa, unable to eat any more. Or at least that’s me. So what do you do when you’ve gained a few kilos over Christmas (I personally gained 3kg from eating over 3000 calories a day) and want to perhaps tone up a bit from New Year onwards?

There are basically two options:

  • Detox: This usually involves cutting out a lot from your diet, often entire food groups, eg. wheat/dairy/sugar/alcohol/red meat (my mum cuts them all out for 2 weeks) in an effort to ‘cleanse’ and ‘detox’ your body. Maybe you’ll even try a ‘skinny/detox tea’ because the transformation pics are great.
  • Continue to eat normally, but healthier. Cutting down on unhealthy foods/drinks such as refined sugars, saturated fats and alcohol and allowing your liver to do the rest.

As a scientist and advocate of balanced eating, I am a firm believer that DETOXES DO NOT WORK. A quick note on how our body removes toxins (or ‘detoxes’) itself: the lymph removes larger waste products and liver removes and inactivates most other toxins, such as alcohol. The water-soluble ones move to the kidneys to be excreted in urine. The last major part is your digestive tract, where fibre can help move toxins through until they are eventually excreted. Yum.

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Natural detoxification

What even is a ‘toxin’? Interestingly, the companies that benefit from detoxes and diets can’t all agree on what is meant by detoxification. Essentially it means removal of toxins from the body, through diets and cessation of ingesting toxins, in this case unhealthy foods, alcohol and cigarettes. The aim is to reset the metabolism and allow the body to function at full capacity without being inhibited by these ‘toxins’. Unfortunately due to some poor science and misunderstandings, the term ‘toxin’ has been broadened to include anything that the diet might remove. This can include harmless substances such as wheat or dairy (unless you’re intolerant).

 

Here are some of the more popular and misunderstood ‘detoxes’ being sold on the market, especially after New Year.

 

Juice cleanses: We’re all aware that fruit and vegetables are good for us, and therefore many people believe that, by extension, a diet of purely fruit and veg MUST be even better. Juice/smoothies diets advise nothing but fruit and veg smoothies/juices for days or weeks. Of course you will lose weight, but only because you’re probably only achieving a maximum of 800 calories a day. You could eat 800 calories of cheeseburger a day and you would lose weight. You would still not be ‘detoxing’. On such a low calorie diet, our bodies start to use up stored glycogen, before burning fat. A lot of water is stored in glycogen, so significant amounts of weight may be lost quickly, although most of the weight would be water, not fat. After a few days of detoxing, energy levels would be rock bottom and irritability sky high as your body uses the last of its glycogen and starts moving to burning fat (and muscle). Luckily liquid diet detoxes usually don’t last long enough to cause vitamin/mineral deficiencies, and probably won’t land you in hospital. However, the result tends to be a very hungry person who may or may not feel the need to eat more upon finishing the diet. Sometimes electrolyte imbalances can occur, leading to fatigue and dehydration. Usually, all weight lost is regained within a few days, mostly from eating real food which holds more water. Thus both weight lost and gained is mostly water.

 

Detox/diet/skinny teas: Most detox teas make you lose weight because they contain laxatives or diuretics. Laxatives ‘work’ by releasing anything in your gut along with a lot of water, allowing you to lose weight for the first few days of using them, although none of this is fat. Diuretics increase the amount you pee, effectively dehydrating you and allowing you to lose more water weight. Laxatives are among the more harmful diet aids, as they can dehydrate and cause mild nutrient deficiencies if used over an extended period of time, as food spends less time in the gut, so not all the nutrients are absorbed. In addition, your body may compensate by decreasing your natural ‘movements’ – so when your detox finally ends, you may find yourself feeling pretty uncomfortable. Ew.

As you can see above, I also fell prey to the glamour and marketing of detox/skinny teas. Lyfe and boo-tea were two that I was sent and happily showed off on my Instagram. I’m not hiding this as I think it’s important to show that without educating yourself, anyone can believe what they’re told. For someone who was, at the time, recovering from an eating disorder, these sorts of ‘detoxes’ were quite damaging. 

Diet shakes: These work in a similar way to juice cleanses, in that they produce a calorie deficit that means that you lose weight. Often the instructions are to replace one or two meals a day with a replacement shake. These shakes were incredibly popular around 10 years ago and have thankfully gone out of fashion a little. They are attractive to people wanting to lose weight as they don’t require thought into eating healthily, and are quick and easy. However, the advice to ‘not drink your calories’ whilst trying to lose weight is useful – when you drink high calorie drinks, often your body doesn’t ‘realise’ the amount of calories being consumed. With diet shakes, it’s easy to think it doesn’t have many calories as it’s just a drink, meaning that you’re more likely to eat more later. It’s possible that you’ll actually end up eating more calories later in the day to compensate, resulting in weight gain.

 

Instead of a diet? So if you want to ACTUALLY relieve your body of the stress caused by excess aforementioned toxins, what can you do? The great thing is that you CAN help your body, but it might not be as fancy as a detox/cleanse/diet/whatever. Supplying your liver with enough nutrients to function properly is very important. Essentially you need to aid your body in its own detoxification process. This means:

  • Eat more vegetables, which will boost your immune system, fibre intake, feed your liver and make you feel better in general.
  • Drink more water – this can flush out toxins, and help the excrement process, so that your body can detox itself faster.
  • Exercise. This increases your metabolism and means your body can function at full capacity. If you’re not into working out, try walking more – even just standing up and walking about every 30-60 minutes can have a positive effect.
  • Sleep. We need 7-9h of sleep a night for optimal functioning. You’re also much less likely to crave unhealthy foods if you sleep enough at night. If you don’t, try a 30 minute nap (MAX!) during the day to catch up.
  • Don’t sabotage yourself. If you’re detoxing, remember not to add more toxins in – this means limiting caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes and unhealthy foods containing high levels of fat or refined sugar. These sorts of food tire your body out, as the amount of processing that has to occur to digest them is more extensive than with healthy foods. The more you consume these substances the more you’ll crave.
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Supplying your body with natural, healthy food is the best way to aid it in the detoxification process.

The long and short of it is that quick fixes don’t work. Nothing beats a healthy diet and your body’s natural way of detoxing. There is NO evidence that the above diets remove harmful substances faster than eating healthily.

 

Note: There is something to be said for intermittent fasting, ie. missing meals here and there – if you’re interested in this then research it, as the science behind it is super interesting. I’ve never tried it myself but the research is extensive and seems sound.

 

Read this amusing diary of a 3 day juice cleanse: http://laist.com/2013/04/12/juice_cleanse.php

DAY THREE

8:59 a.m.: Wake up, want to die. I have absolutely no energy, and I’m depressed and miserable. I can’t believe I have to do this for another full day.

9:07 a.m.: Call my mom for moral support. She wants to know exactly what a “toxin” is and why I think this will rid my body of them. I think that’s a good question. She thinks I should quit the cleanse and says it’s for vain people with nothing else to think about. Kind of agree with her. She also suggests that people who want to rid their bodies of toxins should probably just eat healthier.”

Cover photo my Matt Lincoln (IG: @mattlincolnphoto)

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 😉