Tuesday, 20 September 2016

5 healthy habits for a happy life

In a world where sitting behind a desk for eight hours a day is the norm and a hot commute on a packed-out train is the only thing that gets you sweaty, it’s no surprise that many people’s health and well-being takes a back seat. Stress, anxiety and chronic fatigue are all symptoms of modern day life, and sometimes staying healthy can seem like more effort than it should be. However, with these five healthy habits, you can prepare to be the hero of your own health: boost your mood and feel great.

1)      Catch enough Zzzz’s

At the risk of sounding like a nagging parent, don’t stay up past your bedtime! Getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night is crucial for good health. Not only is this the time that your body repairs itself, but it’s also the time that your mind processes and retains newinformation. Creating a bedtime routine, turning off all screens an hour before bed and exercising regularly can help you get the rest you need, so you can smash your goals during the day.

2)      Get hydrated

When you’re dehydrated, mental focus declines, physical performance is limited and weight loss is hindered. An average adult should drink 2-3 litres of water a day in order to stay fully hydrated. Try placing a litre bottle of water by your computer at work so that taking regular sips becomes habitual. Expect to experience increased alertness and compliments from your boss about how ‘on the ball’ you are. 

3)      Keep a gratitude diary

At the end of each day, jot down three things that you’re truly grateful for. Whether someone held open a door for you, or a stranger asked how you are, recognising small moments of kindness from others helps to create a sense of calm, happiness and positivity. This sense of calmness and clarity transfers into every aspect of life, and before long you’ll even be smiling on your commute (maybe)!

4)      Move yo’ body

Needless to say, regular exercise is the best way to keep your body in tip top shape. On top of the physical benefits of exercise, the mental benefits are countless too: nothing quite beats that post-exercise high. Thanks to the immediate release of the mood-boosting happy hormones, endorphins, exercise gives you a feeling of accomplishment, happiness and pride. What’s more, you don’t have to be slaving away on the treadmill every day to reap the benefits; incorporating even a little bit of movement will boost your mood: jog home from work; get your friends to check out a new fitness class; or join a local sports team. 

5)      Meditate

Taking just 5 – 10 minutes of your day to still the mind and turn your attention inwards can improve mental focus, reduce anxiety and fill you with an ommazing sense of inner peace. As well as the mental benefits, meditation can also help lower cholesterol, improve sleepquality and decrease blood pressure –all those benefits for sitting still for 10 minutes a day? Sign me up! 

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Saturday, 3 September 2016

My not so healthy lifestyle

Recently I’ve been neglecting my fitness goals and healthy eating. And I’m not sorry.

Let me explain... In April I moved to London, knowing very few people in the city and with massive worries about whether I’d make ends meet as a writer. I had two part-time jobs and did some extra copy writing on the side so I could pay my inflated rent and still have enough money to enjoy the city. Fast forward three months and my long-term relationship has ended abruptly, I’ve been promoted to full-time at the Health Bloggers Community, and I began to relax and really enjoy exploring the city.

I started to say yes to everything

I made new friends, said yes to everything I was invited to, experienced some really awesome events and had the best summer of my life (maybe excluding the summer I spent travelling in South East Asia: that was pretty special). Of course, going to shmancy bars, eating in awesome veggie restaurants and exploring the very best of what the city has to offer meant that both my healthy lifestyle and my bank balance took a bit of a hit.

But do you know what? Giving myself a bit of a break from working out loads, eating ‘clean’ (hate that term) and actually allowing myself to drink alcohol gave me the freedom to live my life to the fullest and to make some amazing memories of my first summer in London.

Now I’m getting back into my fitness again, and I’m doing it more for my own enjoyment rather than for how I look. 

I’m feeling more confident and happy in myself than I have in a very long time and I’m surrounded by positive and happy people... Not to mention I absolutely love my job. I think a few of the huge life changes I’ve made recently have been the main reasons for this shift in perspective. 

At the time my relationship ended, it really wasn’t what I wanted. I was in full on heart break mode and I honestly didn’t think I’d ever be happy again (slightly dramatic, but hey. You gotta feel those feelings). Now I realise that, actually, it was a pretty smart decision; when you stop making someone happy and vice versa, what’s the point in holding on?

You have to let go to be able to experience new things and find happiness within yourself and your own life. And free the other person so they can do the same! Same goes for fitness; as soon as it starts to become a punishment or a chore, what's the point in forcing yourself to do it? You only develop a damaging relationship with exercise, which is anything but healthy. It just becomes another stick to beat yourself with.

At the end of the day, your happiness is more important than how much you weigh or what size clothes you wear... 

You are so much more than that. It sounds cliché but there IS more to life than meeting your fitness goals and always eating nutritionally-dense, dairy-free, refined sugar-free foods. Don’t get me wrong – I love how eating healthily and exercise makes me feel, but making memories with friends and family is worth so much more than that.

So that extra chub on your tummy? Love it, it's a part of you and you deserve to feel fabulous.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Beetroot and Banana Oats

The last couple of weeks have absolutely flown by for me! I've been so busy catching up with friends and family that I just haven't had a chance to update my blog (sorry!). It's my first summer in London so I guess I just want to make the most of it. I'm trying this new thing where I say YES to everything - so far it's proving to be pretty fun. Although quite exhausting!

When you're busy and on the go all the time, it's even more important to take care of yourself and eat nourishing foods as much as you can. I'm definitely not great at making myself cook when it's just me eating, and when I'm on the go, which is something I need to work on. However I do try to sneak extra portions of vegetables in at breakfast (sounds odd, I know), just so I'm getting some nutrients in at the start of the day! In my pursuit for making the best breakfast ever, I made these tasty beetroot oats! They're sweet but not sickly, and you get two of your five a day, plenty of antioxidants and plant proteins - bonus!

Beetroot and banana oats

Add your own twist:

You can easily make these into overnight oats by mixing all the ingredients together and leaving to soak in the fridge overnight (or for at least six hours). Perfect for if you're in a hurry in the morning.

Or if you want to up your vegetable intake even more, why not make them into Beetroot Zoats? Just swap half the oats for grated courgette. You can find a recipe for my chocolate raspberry zoats here.

1 medium-sized pre-cooked beetroot
1 banana
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp chia seeds
60g chunky oats
1 tspn cinnamon
1 cup almond milk

1) Chop and blend the banana, beetroot and half the almond milk in a blender
2) Add the mixture to a pan and heat over a medium heat.
3) Add the oats, maple syrup, chia seeds, cinnamon and the rest of the almond milk.
4) Stir for 3-5 minutes or until the oats have absorbed most of the mixture

I topped this with pumpkin seeds, almonds, cacao nibs and a dash of maple syrup - but you can add whatever you like! Almond butter goes really well too.

Beetroot and banana oats
Beetroot and banana oats topped with all the toppings I love!

What is your favourite way to use beetroot?

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Chocolate Raspberry Zoats

This week I've been working from home every day, which I have to say has been a little lonely at times. I've been making the effort to visit different cafes and work spaces in South London, which has been nice, but I've still felt a little alone. To get over this, I've been making lots of evening plans with friends and going to yoga classes, which has been really nice. 

One benefit of working from home is that I have a lot more time now to do the things I want to do, like see my friends, do my workouts, and sit in the park to eat my lunch (which has been great with the recent sunshine!). 

Now onto the recipe. In all honesty, I've tried zoats before and didn't really like the texture of the grated courgette with the oats. But I have so many courgettes just sat in my fridge at the moment, that I thought I may as well use them in my breakfast! And I'm really glad I did, because these chocolate and raspberry zoats turned out so well.

What are zoats?
Zoats are basically oats with courgette (zucchini) added to them. The idea is that you use less oats in exchange for more courgette. 

Why zoats?
Anyone who follows me on Instagram will know that I eat A LOT of oats. I love them, but they can be quite heavy and stodgy. Adding courgette to your oats not only means that you're sneaking an extra portion of greens into your day, but it makes the oats less carby and calorific - great if you're trying to cut down on your calorie intake. (which I'm not, but y'know, it all helps).

Chocolate Raspberry Zoats

1/2 banana
handful raspberries
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 heaped tbsp raw cacao powder
1/2 cup chunky steel cut oats
1/2 cup grated courgette
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water

Toppings: Choose anything you like! My favourites with this are raspberries, sliced banana, cacao nibs, almond butter, mixed seeds and crushed almonds.

1) Heat 1 tbsp of coconut oil in a pan over a medium heat, and add the banana and raspberries. Mash with a wooden spoon and stir until soft.
2) Add the grated courgette and stir for a minute.
3) Add the oats, coconut milk, water and cacao powder, and continue to stir until all the liquid has been absorbed. You may need to add a little more coconut milk.
4) Pour into a bowl and top with your favourite topping.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

5 Tips for Beginner Yogis

I’ve been feeling really uplifted this week. Turns out keeping a gratitude diary and a big smile on your face really does help to stay positive (who'd have thought, ey?). I also signed up for two weeks of yoga at Yoga rise in Peckham, and had my first Ashtanga yoga class on Monday. It was totally amazing – very energetic, dynamic and invigorating; lots of twists, back bends and standing poses. In fact, afterwards, I could feel muscles I don’t usually use waking up and feeling stretched out. Since then I’ve tried a beautiful Yin Yang class, which involved dynamic flows counteracted with slow, deep stretches to create balance on the mat; a morning Mindful Flow class, which was a deliciously gentle way to wake up the body; and Rocket Yoga – a no joke energising class. This was more like a workout than a yoga practice and I LOVED it. I'm also hoping to try Rooftop Yoga next week.

The thing about yoga, for me, is that you can twist your body into all sorts of pretzel-like shapes, massage your internal organs, strengthen muscles and improve your flexibility... but the real transformation happens in your mind. You go from ‘OH MY GOD HOW IS DOWNWARD DOG A REST POSE?!’ To, 'okay, breathe through it, I’ve got this'. You strengthen your mind, willpower and patience. And for that hour or so on the mat, you don't have to think about all the stress going on in your life. For that hour, it’s just you, the mat and the flow. I think of it as my time to find a quiet moment of presence in amongst the crazy hustle of life.

Now, before I get into my 5 tips for beginner yogis, I just want to say that I am by no means an expert. I’m simply giving advice that I’ve learned throughout my experience of yoga over the years. Feel free to take all of it, some of it, or none of it at all. I'm simply sharing with you my experience.

5 Tips for Beginner Yogis

I know it’s kind of boring to sit there for five minutes at the start of your practice and just... breathe. I know the phrase ‘watch the rhythm of your breath as it ebbs and flows’ sounds ludicrously cheesy and absurd. But the more you practise the art of just breathing, the more mindful you will become. Your breath feeds the body with the fuel it needs during challenging poses. So getting your breathing right from the beginning comes in really handy when you are ready to tackle those harder poses.

2) Don’t compare

Seriously, the girl at the front of the class who is legit mimicking a pretzel has probably been doing it a lot longer than you, and guess what? She’s still on her journey. She still hasn’t reached her final yoga destination. Yoga is a PRACTICE. Each of us comes to the mat with different natural levels of strength, flexibility and mobility. Measure your own progress against your previous practices. Not someone else’s.

3. Use a block

It’s no weakness to use a block or a strap to help you comfortably achieve a pose. It’s much better to use these tools than to overstretch your body, or end up creating tension and pain by putting too much pressure on certain areas. Just do what you can do; use a block to bring the floor up to you; wrap a strap around your leg to bring it closer to you. There is no shame or humiliation in doing this. Getting the right technique is more important than going deep into a pose, plus it can seriously damage your muscles.

4. Go to a class

A few months ago I wrote a post on my favourite Youtube yogis, for those of us who don’t have time to go to classes. These guys are all great teachers, however, when you’re at the start of your yoga journey, it can be so easy to get your posture wrong or your hand and hip positioning misaligned. This can seriously damage your body in the long-run, so getting the right technique is paramount. This is where being in a class seriously has its benefits. The teacher will be able to correct your posture, give you personalised tips and provide you with modifications.

5. Commit to it

This is the biggest thing. For that hour you are there, try to clear your mind of all your worries, work stress, dieting issues and relationship struggles (they will still be waiting for you when you’re finished!). Give yourself an hour to devote yourself to you. To concentrate on nothing more than matching your breath to your movement. This way, you’ll really get the most out of your practice and leave feeling rejuvenated and uplifted.

You deserve to nourish your soul, mind and body, and yoga is an amazing way of doing all three things at once.


Monday, 4 July 2016

Review: Veggie Pret

Now I know Pret a Manger doesn't seem like the most exciting place to review... but the Veggie Pret  pop-up is certainly a treat for vegetarian and vegan tummies all over London!

As you may already know, On the 1st June 2016, Pret a Manger decide to launch their very first vegetarian-only store in Soho. I finally got round to visiting the store a couple of weeks ago, and as I eat a plant-based vegetarian diet, mostly free of dairy, I was pleasantly surprised.

On the tables are ballot boxes and 'hit the spot or lost the plot' feedback forms for customers to express their opinions on their fave and least fave dishes. I have to admit, I was the crazy lady frantically filling in forms on the table in the corner - I loved everything I ate (and I ate a lot!).

I started my VIP (Veggie in Pret) experience with a Chakalaka Wrap which was a flavoursome mix of roasted butternut squash, Chakalaka beans, baby kale and coconut yoghurt - a surprising mix of flavours but a definite success. I then wanted to try one of the controversial savoury yoghurt pots that I've heard so much about. I went for the Mint & Dukkah Yoghurt Bowl. Made up of Greek yoghurt topped with olive oil, mint leaves and a blend of Middle Eastern herbs, spices and nuts, I eyed it up sceptically as it sat on the shelf before deciding YOLO. Now, I know these savoury yoghurt pots have received mixed reviews (olive oil and yoghurt?!) but mine tasted absolutely amazing. Sort of like a Middle Eastern take on the tzatziki dip - I'd definitely recommend accompanying it with some flat bread, although I enjoyed it on its own. Big tick from me, Pret!
Chakalaka wrap & Mint & Dukkah Yoghurt Bowl

I was about to leave, full of contentment with my tasty veggie meal, but then I spotted the Almond Protein Power shake sat all alone on the shelf, calling my name... well, I couldn't just ignore it now, could I? All the ingredients in the smoothies and shakes are left unblended in their plastic container on the shelves, so you can see exactly what goes in it. You then take it to the till where the lovely Pret team add ice and give it a whizz in the blender for you. The shake was a perfect blend of banana, dates, almond butter, chocolate powder, almond milk and ice. SO GOOD. You can even add an espresso shot for an extra 30p. I don't really drink coffee so I refrained from this, but I imagine it would make a tasty addition for coffee lovers.

As I was leaving, I was talking to one of the Pret team about the popularity of the store (which I'm happy to report is high!). At the end of the conversation, he gave me the Artichoke, Tapenade & Olive baguette to try. I was sadly waaay too full to even entertain eating it that evening, so I had it for lunch the next day and I have to say, it hit the spot! Big chunks of artichoke hearts were topped with Kalamata olives and smeared in that lovely cherry tomato and red pepper tapenade - amazing - even better than the usual avocado & tapenade sandwich Pret does. 
Cheeky selfie with my Almond Protein Shake & Veggie Pret!
Overall, I rolled out of Veggie Pret a much happier (and totally stuffed) version of myself. Due to popular demand, the store has now been extended to stick around all summer (yay!) so if you haven't sampled their amazing veggie and vegan selection yet, show them some love and get yourself down there! 

You can find the little Veggie Pret all summer at 35 Broadwick St, London, W1F 0DH

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Easy, Nut-free Vegan Granola

This week has been... turbulent, to say the least. Somehow, I've made it through to the end and things seem a little bit easier. Despite it being emotionally very tough, I've had lots of exciting things going on, which have definitely helped to keep me busy! 

On Friday evening, the Health Bloggers Community had the first ever Health Blog Awards ceremony - which went fabulously! It seems like everyone enjoyed themselves and our judges were super inspirational. I'm so relieved that all went well, and I really enjoyed meeting so many familiar faces who I've connected with online but never met in person.

On Saturday, two of my very good friends came over to my flat and completely cheered me up. They helped me put a few things into perspective, and made me laugh for the first time in a while. It's tough times like these that you realise how truly lucky you are to have the support and guidance of good friends and loving family. I am one extremely grateful lady to have so many blessings in my life!

Now, on to the recipe. I'm not going to lie, this started out as flapjack... but somewhere down the line, the mixture developed a life of its own and decided it didn't want to stick together... so instead, it became granola. Still super delicious and the perfect partner to coconut yoghurt, berries and a dollop of nut butter (because nut butter is life, am I right?!)

With just 6 ingredients, this healthy vegan granola couldn't be easier to make! It's deliciously sweet and makes enough for at least 10 servings. Feel free to swap some ingredients around; add more seeds, use gluten-free oats or a different sweetener. I really love the simplicity of this recipe, and if you have a nut allergy, it means you don't have to miss out on a super nourishing breakfast!

200g rolled oats
110g coconut oil
7 tbsp agave syrup ( you can sway this for maple syrup or honey)
60g seedless raisins
50g pumpkin seeds (or 25g pumpkin, 25g sunflower seeds)
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

1) Gently melt the coconut oil over a low heat, and add the agave syrup and cinnamon.

2) When the coconut oil has completely melted, add the oats, raisins and pumpkin seeds, and mix until the oats are covered with the liquid

3) Spoon the mixture onto a baking tray, and spread evenly.

4) Heat in the oven for 15 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Be sure to turn the mixture half way through, so that all the oats at the bottom come to the top.

5) Leave to cool before storing in an airtight container.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Healing Turmeric Porridge

This breakfast got quite a lot of attention on my Instagram feed lately, so I thought I'd pop the recipe on my blog for anyone who wants to try it themselves.

I find that turmeric (despite its glorious nutritional benefits) can be quite a harsh flavour by itself, which is why I've naturally sweetened the bowl with banana and cinnamon. If you prefer a more savoury taste, feel free to skip the cinnamon! I'd recommend keeping the banana though - it adds a delicious creaminess to the porridge.

A great breakfast to warm you up on a cold morning, turmeric porridge always feels like it's nourishing you from the inside out, thanks to the healing and nurturing properties of turmeric. This age-old spice has long been used in traditional medicine for its anti-inflammatory, calming properties. You can find out more about the health benefits of this natural root on my '5 Health Benefits of Turmeric' post.

Healing Turmeric Porridge Recipe

1/2 cup oats
1 cup almond milk
1 teaspoons coconut oil
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 banana
Handful blueberries
Toppings of your choice, I like crushed almonds, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, cacao nibs

1. Melt 1 teaspoon of coconut oil in a pan over a medium heat
2. Chop half the banana and add to the coconut oil, along with a handful of blueberries. Simmer and stir for 1 minute.
3. Add the turmeric, cinnamon and half the almond milk to the pan, and stir until the milk becomes a golden colour.
4. Add the oats and the rest of the almond milk to the pan, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring regularly, or until the oats have formed a smooth porridge consistency.
5. When ready, pour into a bowl and top with the rest of the banana, and any toppings of your choice.

Healing turmeric porridge topped with banana, blueberries and pumpkin seeds


Monday, 30 May 2016

Vegan Sweet Red Pepper & Broccoli Dahl

I hope you've all had a fantastic Bank Holiday weekend. I've been busy seeing old friends, spending time with my boyfriend and catching up on some work - it's gone super quickly!

The other night when I got in from work, I really couldn't be bothered to cook anything, but knew I should make an effort to eat something healthy and nourishing. I was lacking inspiration, so I started rummaging through the cupboards and the fridge for ideas. I found a bit of leftover root ginger, a sad looking broccoli, a couple of garlic cloves, and this Dahl recipe appeared in my mind!

So today I've got a special weekday recipe for you guys on the blog. This vegan dahl recipe takes roughly 30 mins from start to finish, so it's perfect for bringing a bit of glam to your weekday dinner. It is made with completely natural, wholesome ingredients, no artificial nasties and healing spices, so it's a super nurturing treat for your body.

What I love most about this nourishing dish (aside from the anti-inflammatory turmeric and ginger, and the vitamin packed broccoli) is that you can make a big batch of three or four portions, and freeze the ones you don't eat for those days you just can't be bothered to cook!

Vegan Sweet Red Pepper & Broccoli Dahl

Ingredients (Serves  4)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2cm piece fresh root ginger, grated
1 tbspn coconut oil
1 head broccoli, chopped
250g orange lentils
1 red pepper, chopped
500ml vegetable stock
3 tbspn tomato puree
2 tbspn tamari
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper
fresh coriander for seasoning (optional)

1) Heat the grated ginger and crushed garlic cloves in the coconut oil for 1-2 mins.
2) Add the lentils, 500ml vegetable stock, tomato puree, tamari, cumin, turmeric, paprika and simmer for 5 mins, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.
3) Add the broccoli and peppers and simmer on a low heat for 20 mins, or until the vegetables are tender. 
4) Stir regularly; you may need to add more water as the lentils absorb the liquid.
5) Serve with brown rice and top with fresh coriander.

You can easily swap the broccoli for other delicious vegetables like aubergine or sweet potatoes if you'd prefer.