Healthy Pack-ups

Having to make your child’s lunch in advance five days a week can be a challenge sometimes especially if you want to make it healthy as it’s easy to send them to school with a sandwich, crisps & a chocolate bar or piece of fruit!! And when you get the lunch box back at the end of the day to find the fruit is still in there, a bit more bruised but still un-eaten.

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The key to coming up with healthy pack lunches is variety, so the child doesn’t get bored but also helps them to try new foods. Also theme lunches are a great way to get your child interested in food so it could be themed around countries of the world, calendar events, colours; the only limitation is imagination.

Sticking with the traditional sandwich well sort of try experimenting with:

Different types of bread – Sundried tomato, herb & garlic, olive, wholegrain, multigrain, seeded, rye, sour dough, ciabatta, pitta

Wraps/tortillas – You can easily make these yourself but if time is short, there are many varieties available at all the major supermarkets

Scone based sandwich – I remember mum sending me to school with a three cheese scone & some cherry tomatoes & it was delicious

English muffin type bread – any these can be homemade or bought, the cheese ones are especially lovely

Savoury muffins – cheese & bacon, sundried tomato

So that’s the bread sorted what about fillings:

It doesn’t matter what you fill the sandwich with but the one principle I’d stick to is to ensure there is some protein within the filling – protein helps you stay fuller for longer & and releases energy slower (so you’re less likely to get a sugar high).

Pulled meats are easy as can be made in advance or are leftovers from a meal

Homous or other bean based dips make a great alternative to butter or spread, if you’re child isn’t keen on them, try adding red pesto to it to make it slightly sweeter.

Cheese – a good protein source but high in saturated fat, so try grating it up and mixing with grated vegetables such as carrot.

Mini meatballs with a tomato sauce – you could get your children to help you make these, cook the night before & then slice in half, add to sandwich with a little sauce for flavour. These work really well as a pasta salad too.

Use lamb mince to make mini kofta balls and make a minted yogurt dip to go with it.

Marinate chopped chicken in a barbeque sauce, cook as you would for a barbeque and then serve with a yogurt and tomato dip and salad.

pack-up

Animal source – Meat, fish, poultry, diary, egg

Vegetable source – Beans, pulses, nuts, seeds, tofu, quorn

Alternatives to sandwiches:

Rice/pasta/couscous/bulgar wheat salad: A handy tip to add more flavour to these without the need to add mayo or other sauces is to cook in a light stock (Chicken or vegetable).

Anything goes here really with flavours, chopped up or grated vegetables and of course some protein!!

Greek – feta, olives, cucumber & minted yogurt

Rainbow – Red, yellow, orange & green pepper, grated cheese

Italian – Tomato, basil & mozzarella (use pesto to flavour it)

Vegetable sticks & dip or pate is another idea to add variety:

Vegetables that can be eaten raw:

  • Peppers
  • Carrot
  • Courgette
  • Cucumber
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Mange Tout
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Cabbage
  • Celery
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Radishes
  • Peas

Roasting vegetables can be used to add interest to sandwiches or salads:

Onions, tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, aubergines

Root vegetables are also lovely roasted & can be used in a salad:

Carrot, butternut squash, sweet potato, mini potatoes.

Sweet stuff

Most children like yogurts especially fruit ones but most shop bought fruit yogurts are quite high in sugar, I would personally recommend that you buy natural yogurt and then add your own flavours to it, this will be cheaper too and more adaptable!!

Here are some ideas for fruit compotes which can be used in a variety of ways but make a great homemade fruit yogurt:

Mixed berry – mixed frozen berries, stewed in a little water and something to sweeten it, I use agave nectar but honey or sugar is fine, just don’t make it too sweet or you could use apple juice to do the job of the water & sugar.

Rhubarb on its own or with a little ginger if you’re children like it – same as above but using fresh rhubarb when in season

Apple & berry – use the mixed frozen berries with some chopped apple and again the same method is used as above

Apple & raisin

Pear & dried friut

Spiced apple – chopped apple, mixed spice and then use the same method as before

Peach & apricot

Tropical – Use the tropical fruit mix and stew gentle like above, you probably don’t need to add any sugar to this one though

Either mix them before you put in the lunch box or let your child make their own (A bit like a branded two part corner yogurt)

Homemade flapjacks or granola can be used to add texture to yogurt and another snack for children to munch on.

My food and nutrition philosophy

Food and nutrition are my life, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t read an article about the latest nutrition research or about a new ingredient/restaurant or food trend!! It what makes me tick (literally!!).

Over the years it’s been interesting to observe the way that food and nutrition has become such a massive talking point in the media, it probably always has been but recent it feels that we are now bombarded by it, cookery and food tv programmes pull in huge audiences week in, week out and nutrition & health stories fill our social media feeds too.

I’ve been a qualified nutritional therapist for over 9 years now and had the honour of studying at the world renowned Institute of Optimum Nutrition founded by Patrick Holford. (www.ion.ac.uk)

Our health is priceless and something most people take for granted until they lose it, we have one body which we need to see us through from birth to death but yet we abuse it until breakdown, get frustrated when it doesn’t work how we want it to or stops us from living the life we want.

So here’s my philosophy you about health, nutrition and food!!

ALL food can be GOOD for you and ALL food can be BAD for you!! Even the healthiest of foods can be bad for you if you eat them in excess!! So I aim to eat as many different foods as possible which means that I physically can’t eat too much of anything.

The old sayings “A little of what you fancy does you no harm” and “everything in moderation” are really true here.

I’m a realist when it comes to food and nutrition and there are times when I eat cake, chocolate and other foods which aren’t the best for you and guess what I NEVER feel guilty about this either, eliminating or restricting certain from your diet will only make you want them more!!

Food guilty quote

I believe food should be seen as the wonderful positive life giver that it is and enjoyed for that reason!! Food gives the energy we need to live our lives; certain foods will make you feel different so it’s about learning to listen to your body and recognise the foods that might not suit you.

On a physiological level we are all the same, the same organs and the way we process food but we are also unique in the way that the body responds to the food we eat. For example, I know that I’m quite sensitive to certain stimulants such as coffee and liquorice, I don’t avoid them completely as I like both of them but I do make sure that I don’t eat/drink either after a certain time of the day so that it doesn’t impact on my sleep patterns.

We are very lucky in this country (UK) to have such a vast selection to choose from and should use this choice to eat a variety of foods; this also helps to stop the boredom of eating the same foods all the time.

Nourish quote

I just try to eat food as close to nature as nature intended (Some call it eating clean) and to eat in season so that I can support local producers!!

Life is for living, food is for eating!! ENJOY

Jawbone UP24 Test Drive

So back in July I wrote a post about my Jawbone UP band and how it had helped me to focus on my activity & sleep patterns, I was lucky enough to be asked if I would like to road test the UP24 band to see if I liked this too.

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The main difference between the UP and UP24 is that UP24 uses bluetooth to connect to the app (it’s also £24 more expensive) but having used both bands I do think this extra little bit of money is actually worth it now that i’ve experienced it. The main reason for this is that it reminds you through the day to sync your band and also gives you updates of how active or not you’ve been that day.

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Around the same time as getting the UP24, Jawbone did a major update which included a redesign, I quite liked the old design but the new design is more crisp, clean and clearer to use, within this update they also improve the food logging side of things.

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In the past I’ve used My Fitness Pal to log my food intake but decided to use this function instead as part of the test drive!! And there are bits of it I really like and bits that I found extremely frustrating.

The positives first:

  • How they rate each meal so you can see how good it is on a score of 1-10 (1 being not very health and 10 being super healthy),
  • The breakdown of the food you’ve consumed so far in terms of macro nutrients like carbs, protein & fat. The other
  • The rough amount of calories you’ve burnt against your intake so you can adjust it
  • Like the word cloud as this shows you if you are eating lots of the same foods (need to cut down my butter intake from the looks of it)
  • Barcode scanner – saves time when finding foods
  • If you eat out, many of the chain restaurant meals are in the database, again it’s still being added to but very good idea.

The negatives:

  • The database is still quite small and many foods are missing or the British term is not used, an example of this is double cream and I know I probably shouldn’t be eating it but it tastes so good with fresh raspberries!!! (I can’t for the life of me find it as I haven’t a clue what it’s called in the states if they even have it!!)
  • Barcode scanner – many UK foods aren’t on here so you end up having to manually add the nutritional information yourself which is time consuming & not that accurate.
  • The inability to store recipes, I love the barcode scanner idea but I cook most of my food from scratch so not very useful to me and it’s extremely tedious to input a recipe as you have to add every individual ingredient (this is a fault with most of the food logging apps, my fitness pal included, although you can create your own recipes on MFP and store them) and I don’t know about you but I tend to cook similar food regularly so having to put it in everytime is just boring!!

Overall, I think the food logging bit is a great idea as it gets people to understand the collation between food and activity but until the database is more comprehensive I’ll be going back to use MFP for this side of things

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I love the reminder you can set yourself and it also prompts you to challenge yourself to into routines & healthy practices, I even got a message on my birthday (I think I need to get out more as I actually did a little gig when I saw it!!), all the step counted too!!

As you can probably tell I’m a massive fan of these clever little bands and so glad I invested in it as it’s really given me the tool I need to make changes to my life for the better.

I’d definitely recommend anyone thinking of getting some wearable tech to go for it!!

 

 

CrossFit Diaries, Part Two – Tech I Use

So the first month of CrossFit went ok, I managed 10 workouts and 2 runs (13.3km) in terms of measurements not too bad either:

  • Weight: 13 Stone, 4lb – 1lb loss
  • BMI: 30.9 – 0.2 reduction
  • Chest: 39 inches – 1 inch loss
  • Waist: 34 inches – 2 inch loss
  • Hips: 47.5 inches – .5 inch loss
  • Thigh (R): 27 inches – .5 inch loss
  • Thigh (L): 27 inches – .5 inch loss
  • Bicep (R): 14 inches – 1 inch gain!!
  • Bicep (L): 13.5 inches – .5 inch loss

Overall inch loss: 4 inches across my body – i’m happy with that!

So this months I’m going to focus on the tech that helps me stay on track

Tech

Polar Heart Rate Monitor:

I use this every time I exercise so I can monitor how I’m doing, how good my recovery is and overall cardio fitness!! I am able to set a goal for this which is either weight loss or cardio fitness, mine is set to cardio fitness and currently my weekly targets are:

  • Time target: 2 hours 25 minutes
  • Calories burnt target: 1200kcal
  • Intensity targets (different heart rate zones) Zone 1: 40 minutes, Zone 2: 1 hour, 35 minutes and Zone 3:10 mins

It monitors how i’m doing will adapt the programme if I’m not hitting the above targets after a month, every quarter it prompts you to do a fitness test and then gives you feedback as to the changes positive or negative.

Jaw Bone Up:

I wear my UP24 all the time and this monitors my movement and sleep, see my full blog post about this here: https://lincolnshiregirl.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/jawbone-up-a-year-on/ 

This helps me to stay on top of how active I am and also helps me to keep a good routine when it comes bedtimes & getting up times.

IPhone Apps:

MyFitnessPal-Logo

My Fitness Pal – I use this to log the food I eat so I can keep an eye on my calorie intake & the balance of Macro nutrients (Carbohydrate, Protein & Fat) as well as vitamins and minerals, this is linked to my UP24 Band and Map My Fitness so adjust my calorie allowance based on how active I’ve been on any given day.

Map My Fitness:

MMF Logo

I use this to monitor my runs, so I know the distance I’m running and my pace!! I’m not really bother whether my pace is a good pace (elite athlete pace etc), all I’m interested in is that I’m improving.

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Recently I’ve also downloaded my WOD and Big Lift 2 apps to help me monitor how I’m doing at CrossFit.

My WOD Logo Big Lifts 2 Logo

These apps allow me to record my Personal Bests (PB), my 1 rep max weights and also times for some of the benchmark workouts – more about these next month when I’ll be taking you through the lingo of CrossFit – that gives me a chance to learn it some more as sometimes it all still sounds like a foreign language.

What tech do you use to keep yourself on track?

Until next time – tally ho!!

The Crossfit Diaries – Part One

As many of you know I’m a bit of a gym bunny, I always have been & think I’ll always will be, my interest in fitness & exercise peaked when I qualified as a personal trainer (PT) now 12 years ago (that really does make me feel old!!) and again I had renewed interest in it when I was studying Nutritional Therapy & the link between the food (energy) you put in the body & the energy you get out.

Anyway, about six months ago I decided to review my fitness goals and activity as I didn’t feel that it was really effective. My main goal is to be as fit as I possibly can be (Now don’t shoot me as this isn’t a SMART goal, but I think i’ll know when I reach it) and at the time I was going to David Lloyd 4/5 times a week, dividing my time between cardiovascular workouts, weight training and swimming sessions and had been doing this religiously for around 7 years yet I didn’t feel like I was really pushing my body anymore, I’d got stuck in a rut and yes as a PT I knew what I was supposed to do but actually doing that, with so much other stuff going on in my life, I never quite found the time to write an effective programme that would help me achieve my fitness goals. And yes I enjoyed going to the gym but I have to say what I know now, the gym was soul-less!! Everyone just plugged into the machines oblivious of everyone else… Another point to add is I’ve never been much of an class girl, preferring to do my own thing!!

So when a friend in January this year mentioned to me that a new CrossFit gym was opening in Lincoln I was intrigued to learn more, up until this point I’d never heard of CrossFit & I bet some of you haven’t either.

So with a bit of courage I went along to Cross Fit Witham when they had an open day to see what it was all about & was hooked straightaway!!

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CrossFit is a way to exercise that helps you become fit for life (meaning making your every day life easier). There are 10 areas that a CrossFit workout will help you with:

  1. Cardiovascular and Respiratory endurance,
  2. Stamina
  3. Strength
  4. Flexibility
  5. Power
  6. Speed
  7. Coordination
  8. Agility
  9. Balance
  10. Accuracy

So, how do they achieve all these things? Well every day there is a Workout Of the Day (WOD) which everyone who attends that day will do the same WOD and your scores are recorded, it’s not really a competition between everyone but against yourself & beating your previous scores!! And the great thing about WOD is that your body never gets used to it as everyday you are challenged to do something different. All the exercises are scale-able so if you are new to exercise you can still take part and then build up.

Now i’ve only been a few times at writing this post but I’ve realised its more than just a workout!! It’s a way of life, it’s a community where everyone is rooting for each other to achieve success at whatever level they are working at and that’s something I’ve missed since giving up hockey a couple of years ago!!

At the end of August this year some of the guys and gals from the box (What the gym is called) participated in Tribal Clash (http://thetribalclash.com/) a crossfit competition and my goal is to be able to enter it in 2015 as well as feel like i’ve achieved the goal I mentioned above and I’d like to take you along on my journey in an online diary of my progress, each month I’ll tell you how i’m getting on but it will be more than that, I want to share with you the different aspects that make crossfit one of the fastest growing exercise regimes there is around, this will include:

  • Food and nutrition (obviously I couldn’t not mention food being slightly obsessed about it)
  • The lingo
  • The regime
  • The equipment
  • The competitons
  • The community

and much more…

A way I will be measuring my progress is with stats, my body measurements but also the personal bests I’m getting during my workouts, as my personal best are a little thin on the ground right now (only done 5 WOD so far). I’ll give you my starting measurements as of today 10th September 2014

  • AGE: 37
  • Weight: 13 stone, 5lb
  • Height: 5 foot, 5 inches
  • BMI: 31.1 (I know this isn’t very accurate as doesn’t take into account muscle mass but it’s another stat I can use to see my progress)
  • Chest: 40 inches
  • Waist: 36 inches
  • Hips: 48 inches
  • Thigh: (R) 27.5 inches, (L) 27.5 inches
  • Bicep: (R) 13 inches, (L) 14 inches

So the hard work starts now… eekk!! Check back in a month to see how I’m getting.

Pork and Apple Meatballs with roasted pepper sauce

I made these meatballs a couple of weekend ago as I fancied doing some experimenting in the kitchen for a change of making the same old meals I always do, they were so quick and easy to make and turned out delicious so I thought I would share the recipe with you

Ingredients

for the meatballs:

  • 500g pork sausage meat (or pork mince if you like, but you may need to add a couple of tablespoons of breadcrumbs to it)
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 apple finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. dried mixed herbs
  • 1 egg
  • salt & pepper
  • oil for cooking

for the sauce:

  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • tin of chopped tomato
  • water
  • 2 tbsp. tomato puree
  • 2 peppers (I used 1 red & 1 orange)
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • salt & pepper
  • oil for cooking

Method

There are quite a few steps to this recipe but it all happens quite quickly!

1. Roast the peppers

Chop the peppers in half & de-seed them. Place them on a baking sheet and place under a hot grill for around 15 minutes to char the skins.

2. Make the meat balls

While the peppers are under the grill, chop the onion and apple finely (or grate) into a large bowl along with the sausage meat, herbs, egg & seasoning. Mix together so they are well blended and form the mixture into small golf balls.

Warm a small amount of light olive oil in a large frying pan.  When hot, brown the meatballs in batches and add to a baking tray.

3. Bag the peppers

Check your peppers. Once the skins are well charred, place the hot peppers in a freezer bag and seal. (This means the peppers steam themselves a little and makes it easier for you to remove the skin.)

4. Cook the meat balls

Turn off the grill and turn the oven to 150°C. Place the meatballs in the oven on their baking tray while you make the sauce.

5. Make the sauce

Using the same frying pan, add a little more oil and soften the onion and garlic for the sauce until translucent, 2 or 3 minutes. Skin the peppers and mash or puree them into the sauce. Add a tin of chopped tomatoes and a tin of water, the tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce (to taste), salt and pepper.

6. Combine everything

Bring the sauce to the boil before adding back the meatballs and cooking on a lively heat for a further 15-20 minutes.

You can serve this with any carbohydrate you like, works well with some large chunks of bread! I also like to serve it with some steamed green vegetables (broccoli, sugarsnap peas etc)

And here if you are interested are the nutritionals for this recipe (does not include the carbohydrates or green veg)

NUTRITION INFORMATION

% of your guideline daily   amount (per serving)

Typical Values

Amount per 100g

Amount per 477g   serving

Energy

349kJ / 83kcal

1663kJ / 398kcal

20%

Fat

4.7g

22.3g

32%

(of which saturates)

(1.1g)

(5.4g)

27%

Carbohydrate

3.8g

18.4g

(of which sugars)

(2.4g)

(11.4g)

13%

Protein

6.1g

29.2g

Salt

0.4g

1.8g

30%

Fibre

0.8g

3.8g

Key

Being a judge at The British Pie Awards

On the 25th April 2012 I had the honour of being a judge at British Pie Awards 2012 – http://www.britishpieawards.co.uk/index.php?pid=1, before I talk about my day as a judge I want to sum up the awards in numbers:

1 Supreme Champion – Dunkleys – Chicken, Ham, Mushroom, Buttered Leeks & Suet Pastry Pie

1 Special Award to recognise the small producer – Morecambe Football Club

1 Chairman of the Judges – Andrew Chisholm

1 Blessing of the pie – Rev Kevin Ashby

3 Class winners for 1 company – Morecambe Football Club

17 sponsors/companies supporting the awards

18 Classes

23 Number of pies I judged with my judging partner

75% of entries were from small businesses

94 Judges

98 Entries awarded a Gold award

100 Entries awarded a Silver award

116 Entries awarded a Bronze award

118 Most entries in 1 category (Chicken & any flavour combination)

900 Number of entries

As you can see these awards are taken very seriously so driving to Melton Mowbray on the morning of the awards I was feeling a mixture of excitement & nervousness of what the day will bring.

When I arrived, I signed in and found out what class I would be judging and who my judging partner was. I was allocated the class – chicken & any flavour combination and my judging partner was Rob Freck (Proprietor of The Cheese Shop Nottingham Ltd – http://www.cheeseshop-nottingham.co.uk/). I was pleased with this class mainly as I prefer hot eating pies to cold eating pie and having worked on the Brand Chicken Tonight for over 5 years in product development so I felt I was quite well qualified for this class.

I quickly looked through the programme to see how many pies were in this class to work out the size of the task ahead and was taken aback when the number staring back at me was 118!! Thankfully there were 5 sets of judging pairs to help us with the largest class entries of the day.

I grabbed a cup of coffee and we all assembled for a welcome to the day & judges briefing by Matthew O’Callaghan (Chairman of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association). We then all made our way to our tables to commence judging but before we tasted anything the Rev Kevin Ashby did the blessing of the pies.

The judging takes place at St Mary’s Church in Melton Mowbray and is open to the public, so through the day we had many visitors coming in to see what was happening. Some of the pie producers had driven to Melton Mowbray & brought their pies personally to the awards so were also present.

The staff and students of Loughborough College were responsible for heating up the pies ready for tasting and a steady stream of hot pies were brought to us. The way the judging works is that every pie starts with 100 points and points are deducted for faults. There are 6 elements to the judging of a pie:

  1. Appearance (Including Glaze/Finish)
  2. Baking (including excessive boil out)
  3. Pastry Thickness
  4. Pastry Taste & Texture
  5. Filling (Including Jelly/Gravy/Sauce)
  6. Filling Texture & Taste

So each pie was carefully dissected to ensure we were able to give it a fair score, not only did we score each pie but also wrote comments on how the pie could be improved & what impressed us most about the pie. We made sure comments were constructive to allow the business who entered the pie to improve for next year. We know that businesses put their heart and soul into the making of pies so wanted to reward them with positive comments.

The hours passed by and we were still judging, other classes had finished and were enjoying the buffet lunch that had been provided but with a record number of entries in our class we stuck at it until the end.

In total Rob and I judged 23 pies and by the last one we were a little stuffed & tired of chicken. The main flavour combinations we saw were chicken & mushroom, chicken & ham/gammon/bacon, chicken & leek, chicken curry and then some more unusual flavours such as chicken, Stilton & broccoli.

After around 3 hours all 900 pies had been judged!! We grabbed ourselves a drink and waited for the winners to be announced.

   

What a day it was, a pat on the back to the organisers for making the day run so smoothly but a massive round of an applause to all the businesses who submitted pies for us to judge, 314 entries received an award and the quality of the pies I tasted personally was outstanding, just makes you so proud to be British!!

So then I made my way back to the car, tummy slightly more rounded than normal but with a big smile on my face knowing that I’d been part of something so great. And also getting a picture with one of my favourite chef Phil Vickery! :0)

As soon as I got home, I put the date in my diary for next year’s awards: Wed 24th April 2013.

LONG LIVE THE BRITISH PIE – A world beater!!