How to supercharge your diet – without it tasting “too healthy”!

I believe most of us want to feel healthy and eat the foods that are good for us, right? I am definitely one to get really excited about the latest health food trend. I dive all in, stick with the habit for a few weeks, even months, and then sadly get bored and abandon the latest love as quick as I fell for it.

Health fads can feel quite exciting at the start but after a while that turmeric powder or coconut oil just kind of make everything taste the same… and the temptation to eat anything BUT healthy takes over!

Over the years I have found that the best way to introduce new healthy eating habits and foods into my diet is to make it taste so yummy that my brain forgets it’s “healthy”! I eat the dish for the pleasure of it, whether it’s good for me or not.tumeric-tea

I want to share with you a couple of my favourite recipes that are easy, yummy, yet full of fresh, nutrition-packed foods.

Just to be clear though, I’m not a qualified nutritionist by all means. These are recipes that work well for me but I encourage you to listen to your body and seek for professional advice if in doubt.   

 

TUMERIC

I’m sure you’ve heard of Tumeric , the bright yellow powder (or a ginger-resembling root in its fresh form),  that has become the inflammation-fighting superstar of the natural world. The active ingredient, curcumin, is said to combat inflammatory diseases (think of muscle and joint pain as well as bowel and blood disorders and cancers, just to name a few).

I occasionally would make a drink with a teaspoon of turmeric, some chopped fresh ginger, lemon slices and honey thrown into a cup of hot water (see the picture above).  It tastes lovely, but I tend to drink it periodically, then forget about it for ages.

Then a while ago my colleague gave me a great tip on how to get more turmeric into my diet in the most delicious way! She also explained to me about the bioavailability of turmeric. In order to make the most of the medicinal properties of tumeric, it is best taken with black pepper and fatty acids (read more  here).

You ready?  Enter the stage… my go-to breakfast….

 

TUMERIC TOAST!

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Toast a slice of your favourite sourdough (or gluten-free bread if you wish), spead avocado (with all the good-fatty goodness) on it, sprinkle turmeric on the avo (maybe start with a ¼ teaspoon and work your way up once your taste buds get used to it), crack a bit of black pepper and salt on it, maybe even some feta if you’re going all out, and voila, your supercharged toast is ready!

 

GREENS

We all know that it doesn’t get healthier than a bunch of fresh green leafy vegetables! They are an amazing source of minerals, vitamins and nutrients that protect us against anything scary out there, such as aging/cancer/diabetes/heart attacks and the like. So we’d be silly not listen to or mums and eat our greens!

But how to get enough in? I don’t know about you but I love my fresh greens in the summer but come winter my salad intake takes a plummet in favour of hot comfort foods.

This is until I reignited my love for…

 

(SUPER GREEN) PESTO!pesto-pic

I make my pesto in a blender. I buzz about  ¼ cup cashew nuts or almonds first until powdery, then add at least a couple of handfuls of greens*, 1 garlic clove, a squeeze of lemon,  about 1/3 cup olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. I then blend it all together until it turns into a delicious green mess! Lastly I add grated parmesan cheese (you can be as generous or stingy as you want or leave it our altogether for a vegan/dairy free version), but I put in at least 1/4 cups. I eat my pesto as a spread or dip, or as a sauce on top of pasta, rice, chicken or fish. Oh and I replace my mayo in a potato salad with pesto! In other words, it goes with EVERYTHING.

*) Herbs such as coriander, basil or parsley work really well, combined with veggies like kale, silverbeet, rocket, even broccoli. This is a great way to use up any greens in the fridge that are starting to look a bit sad and wilted. (Have a look at the most nutritious greens out there and get creative!)

 

COCONUT OIL

coconutThe tide has finally turned when it comes to saturated fats, which coconut oil is full of. They are no longer the bad guys in the food pyramid, but an essential uilding block for healthy brain, skin and hair, helping lower cholesterol and lose weight among many other amazing health benefits! (Read more here – interesting stuff!)

And I do love the taste of coconut… for a week or two… until I get sick of it! But one thing I don’t think I can ever get sick of is chocolate!

And I happen to have the yummiest AND healthiest  recipe for….

 

SUGAR-FREE COCONUT ROUGH!

(You can thank me later. Actually, you should probably thank this lovely lady that I nicked the original recipe from!)

Melt  1/2 cup coconut oil in a pan over low heat, add 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup and mix well. Add 1/2 cup raw cacao powder and 1 cup of shredded or desiccated coconut to the mix. (If you want to be extra fancy, you can toast the coconut on a dry pan over low heat, stirring constantly, until slightly browned.) I also add in a pinch of salt. You could also flavor the mixture with a drop of peppermint or orange essential oil (and just a drop is enough. Trust me.) Mix all ingredients together and press into a small lined tin.

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Then the fun part, toppings! I usually choose one or two of the following:  chopped almonds, walnuts, cashews, goji berries, dried figs, or more coconut, and sprinkle and lightly press a handful onto the mixture, then pop the tray into a freezer for 10-20mins. When the chocolate comes out of the tin as a slab, I chop into bite size cubes. I keep the choccies in the fridge and try to make the batch last as long as possible. Which is usually only a week!

But hey, I don’t have to justify this one: I’m getting my doze of healthy fats, not to mention the antioxidants from the cacao and the vitamins from the toppings and…  See, my brain is already tricked into thinking this healthy treat must be decadent since it tastes so delicious!

 

Have fun in the kitchen, hope you feel inspired to supercharge your plate with these ideas. Let me know how you go!

 

 

selfcare

Why self care is the sanest thing to do

You may have heard the word “self care” thrown around a lot lately. I know I love to preach about it whenever I get a chance!

So, why is it such a buzz word all of a sudden? Is it just another “thing” that we have to add on to our to-do list (because there’s plenty on that list already)?

Well… it is and it isn’t! Self care really means taking care of yourself first, prioritising your needs and making time for something that makes you feel nourished and alive (I’ll hear you ‘buts’ soon, just listen first). I understand that this may seem like quite a radical and even selfish concept to some. I get it.

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We are so conditioned to thinking that by helping others, keeping everyone happy and not letting our colleagues / parents / kids / friends down is something that makes us a “good person”. A reliable, trustworthy, decent person!

It may be so, but often it also makes us tired, stressed, bitter and grumpy, and looking forward to the next break, whether it’s the weekend, the next holiday, or even just a full eight hours of sleep.

 

PRIORITISING PLAY

So is this concept of self care some kind of magic pill that will make all of our stresses disappear? It’s not an instant fix but I happen to think it is one of the most sensible solutions to the chronic exhaustion that seems epidemic in our society.

However, there is often a lot of resistance coming from inside us and around us. Let’s hear the ‘buts’ as promised: “The chores still need to be done, the kids and dogs fed, the deadlines met, the visitors are coming and the house is a mess… I simply don’t have time for myself! And even if I did I’d feel bad about (fill in the blank).”

Does this sound familiar? It does to me.

It is surprisingly hard, especially for us women, to justify the time we take for pleasure, rest and play. It’s as if we have to push ourselves to the brink of exhaustion before we’ve ‘earned’ the me-time.

Yet, here’s the secret: the better we care for ourselves, the easier the rest of our life flows! Amazing, huh.

The times when I have been stressed out with whatever problem or deadline I was facing, hustling harder never seemed to solve it. But taking time off, going for walk or out for a coffee, often did help resolve the situation, or at least calm me down sufficiently so that I was able to deal with it in a relaxed (read: less manic) manner.

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Essentially, self care helps us “fill our own vessel first so we can serve from the overflow”, as Eleanor Roosevelt wisely put it.

 

EVERYDAY SELF CARE

Consciously and regularly scheduling time for self care is the sanest and kindest thing we can do to ourselves…. and to our loved ones too! I know I am much nicer person to be around when I feel my needs are met and my body and mind nourished.

So, what can we do that will give us the sense of peace, joy and balance that we so crave? Here are some of my favourite self care activities that are easy to incorporate into the everyday life:

  • Walk in the fresh air, preferably bare foot, even if it’s only 15 minutes on your lunch break. (My new hoods in Newcastle provide lots of sand and salty water to soak the feet in, which is lovely). I prefer to not listen to music when walking in order to take in all the sounds and sights fully, but you might relax better with your favourite soundtrack on.
  • Going to a coffee shop with a book or a glossy magazine and sipping my cuppa slowly whilst reading and day dreaming.
  • Baths – I make this into a form of art! Essential oils, Epsom salts, candles, music, cup of tea or a glass of wine are the minimum requirements! The days when I haven’t got the time for this kind of extravaganza I take a hot shower with a few drops of peppermint, sweet orange or rose essential oil sprinkled onto the floor tiles for some delicious steam inhalation and an instant mood lift.
  • Getting a massage treatment (you knew this was coming, right?) – I truly am the biggest believer in the power of therapeutic, healing touch. Leaving the clinic blissfully zonked out, my muscular tensions have disappeared and the chitchat of my mind been replaced with quiet contentment. All of a sudden it is much easier to see what matters in life and what things are really worth stressing about. (Hint: not many.)
aftercare

How to make the most of your massage

What is the best way to ensure that you get the best results from your massage and make the effect of the treatment last for as long as possible? What should you do and not do on the day of your treatment? Here are four of my after care recommendations that I often share with my clients at the clinic.

 

REHYDRATE

Gosh we’ve all heard this before! Why are we always encouraged to drink more water after a massage treatment? Simply because massage is dehydrating for your body. It is a passive workout for your muscles, even though you (lucky thing!) get to relax on the treatment table during it. And as with any workout, you should rehydrate your muscles afterwards.

If you are like me, and struggle with getting enough water into you, try flavouring plain tap water with sliced fruit or fresh herbs. Mint, berries, citrus, sliced apple and cucumber in a jug make a beautiful infused drink that is much healthier than the sugar-laden flavoured waters or soft drinks from the supermarket.

In the winter I fill my (non-plastic!) drink bottle with warm herbal tea, such as peppermint or lemon & ginger, as I find warming teas easier to drink when it is cold outside.

herbal tea

 

REST

Skip vigorous exercise after a massage treatment in order to give your body a chance to rest and recover. Yes we generally encourage you to move and get active, but not directly after the massage. As mentioned before, massage is a workout in itself, and you don’t want to undo all the good work done to relax and lengthen your muscles. However, gentle walking and stretching is fine.

Resting also means having a nap or going to bed extra early on the day of your treatment (and why not other days too if you can manage it!). Your body does most of the tissue repair when you are asleep and a good nights’ sleep is the best after care you can give yourself.

If possible, avoid watching or reading news or hanging around in various social media platforms in the evening as these are mentally stimulating activities that may impact the quality of your sleep.

 

HOT AND COLD THERAPY

Baths (especially with a cup of Epsom salts thrown in), hot showers or heat packs are fantastic for muscle relaxation after a massage. They may also help with some post-massage soreness, which can sometimes occur in the next day or two after the treatment.

If your injury is acute or inflammation (redness and swelling) is present, use ice packs instead. A general recommendation is15-20min at a time 1-3 times a day or as instructed by your therapist.

Or you can try my favourite technique that my mentor likes to call “the Seven Steps”. In this method you start by applying a heat pack onto the problem area and leaving it on for one minute. Then you apply the ice pack, once again leaving in on for a minute. Keep alternating this for seven minutes, in which case you end up finishing with the heat. This technique essentially flushes the muscle by dilating and contracting the blood vessels, helping to push the built-up toxins out of the tissue. Heat is a muscle relaxant whereas ice acts as natures own pain killer, numbing the nerve endings and dulling the achy sensation in the muscles.

(And please do wrap your hot and cold packs in a tea towel or something similar, as you don’t want to burn your skin!)

 

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KINDNESS

Lastly, we get to my favourite topic. Being kind to ourselves.

Notice how good you feel after you’ve had a massage. Your body feels lighter, more relaxed and pain-free (or close to it!) maybe for the first time in a while. I bet your mind is at ease too, you feel happily blissed out, and that thing that was annoying you before may not bug you quite as much anymore. Simply, you feel more like yourself.

Remember the feeling and seek for more moments like it. Make a promise to yourself to keep looking after you. Allow yourself to receive the care that you know you deserve and schedule regular time slots for self care, whatever that means to you. A massage, facial, coffee date with the girls, early morning yoga class, sleep in, play with the puppy, drawing a picture, dancing to your favourite song in front of the mirror. It doesn’t matter what the activity is, as long as it makes you feel alive!