Category: food

Tomato & Basil Sauce – sugar free!

TomAndBasil

In any supermarket the shelves are stacked high with ready mixed cooking sauces in jars. They are very convenient and that’s why millions of jars are sold every day.

The downside? Many of them have a high sugar-content when really most of us are trying to cut down on sugar intake.

When it comes to Tomato and Basil Sauce, not only does it not need sugar – it actually tastes loads better without it!

This sauce is REALLY easy to make in a couple of minutes.

You will need:

  • 2 tomatoes
  • Small carton of passata
  • Rapeseed oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Dried basil
  • Stock cube
  • Black Pepper
  • Salt

Method:

Put all the ingredients in the pan, as follows, before putting on heat.

  1. Pour a glug of rapeseed oil in a saucepan.
  2. Crush and finely chop the garlic clove and add to oil
  3. Chop the tomatoes and add to pan.
  4. Pour on the passata.
  5. Add a stock cube – chicken or veg cube are fine.
  6. Sprinkle over with the dried basil.
  7. Add a few twists of ground black pepper.
  8. Add a pinch or two of salt.
  9. Put the pan on the heat and let it start to bubble.
  10. Turn down to a very low simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
  11. Pour over chicken breasts or pasta for a great taste – sugar free!
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Have a banana!

banana

Over the last couple of years of intentionally trying to improve my diet, one simple habit stands out as the easiest and possibly the most effective change I made. A daily dose of banana.

A banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy. Bananas contain three natural sugars – sucrose, fructose and glucose combined with fiber.

There is no question that bananas give us a great energy boost, that’s why they are popular with athletes.

But bananas also help protect us from several illnesses. Blood pressure, anemia, constipation, nerves, and ulcers are all often eased by eating a banana.

According to a recent survey undertaken by MIND, those suffering from depression felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.

The old saying, ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ should be updated to a banana a day.

I prefer mine when they are nice and ripe, with a few brown dots on the skin. I have one chopped into my porridge every morning for breakfast, with a spoonful of honey.

I also use them in my fruit smoothie recipe.

Go on. Have a banana!

(If you found this post helpful, please share with your friends!)

If you want energy, avoid energy drinks!

EnergyDrinks

When I read this tragic story I realised caffeine is a much more dangerous drug than we realise.

‘My heart just hit the floor’: A mother’s pain after her son died from drinking FOUR energy drinks daily… as a doctor warns no more than two caffeinated beverages per day

The 35-year-old truck driver had suffered a massive heart attack and died from caffeine toxicity

A mother is determined that no one else will have to endure the pain of their child dying from consuming too many energy drinks.

Shani Clarke’s son, Michael, used to drink at least four 500ml cans of Mother a day – as well as four to five cups of coffee before he was found slumped behind the wheel of the 11 tonne truck on the side of the road in Perth on January 30 this year.

The 35-year-old truck driver had suffered a massive heart attack and died from caffeine toxicity.

by Leesa Smith For Daily Mail Australia – 3 September 2014.

(Read full article)

Most of my life I have been a chain coffee drinker. I needed a shot first thing to get the day started, another to get to work, and throughout the morning to keep me focussed… Or so I thought.

In my mid-thirties I began suffering from chest pains. It felt like I was having a heart attack. I went to the doctor. His first question was ‘How much coffee do you drink?’ When I told him he said that was almost certainly the problem. I cut back on the caffeine, and guess what? The chest pains stopped immediately.

As life went on the caffeine consumption increased a little. But I could feel myself starting to get irritable and tetchy by mid-afternoon.

Caffeine is a strong addictive drug. It is the fact that we are addicted to it that makes us think we ‘have to have it.’

Caffeine is in coffee but it’s also in tea – lots of teas not just ‘normal’ tea. It’s also in cola drinks and most energy drinks.

It might come as a surprise that caffeine is not just an addictive drug, it’s also a model drug of dependence

Caffeine is produced by more than seventy-five plants, which use it as a pesticide. That’s right – a pesticide! When we consume caffeine, our body thinks that some kind of emergency is happening. It floods itself with dopamine, epinephrine, cortisol, and acetylcholine. That’s what gives us that feeling of stimulation and being wide-awake and alert. But the human body is not designed to live at that intense state of emergency alertness for long periods of time, let alone every day.

It takes about 24 – 36 hours to come off this drug so, if you are a daily consumer, prepare for a serious pounding headache for a whole day.

Once you are off the drug, you’ll feel a lot calmer, happier and less irritable.

I quit caffeine on 16th October 2014 and I’m not planning to go back. I no longer wake up with caffeine cravings. I still meet friends in coffee shops and cafes but only if they serve decaf, which most of them do.

The alternative

If you want a slow release, safe energy drink, try my smoothie recipe. A pint of that should see you right for the day, with no health risks and lots of health benefits!

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The simple FREE way to lose weight

weight

The UK government has woken up to our problem with gaining too much weight. In the end it will cause health problems and more so in later life. The last few times I went to the doctor for a health check he told me I’m obese. The comedy moment is that the doctors and nurses who broke the unsurprising news… were all about my size or larger!

Many if not most seem to struggle with weight. Last year, over Christmas, I realised I had become overweight, was eating an unhealthy diet, and was taking very little regular exercise. When we did go walking in the countryside – one of our hobbies – I was getting breathless much earlier.

As we approach this Christmas, I feel a lot healthier. So what did I do?

I first lost over a stone in weight over a two to three month period in January to March.

At the beginning of May, I began to tackle my three ‘addictions’ – caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.

While I was tackling my three addictions, I took my eye off the ball on the weight front and put the weight I lost back on. That’s OK because I really wanted to kill some of these ‘addictions’ first.

Now that they are overcome (though I’m still working on the refined sugar thing!) I went back to reducing my weight, and it’s working just as before.

I can eat anything I want but there is a limit if I want to lose weight.

It’s not rocket science. If you eat more than you use for energy, your body will store the surplus as fat.

My magic helper to lose weight – don’t worry, I’m not selling anything! It’s a FREE app available to anyone with a smart phone or computer. You tell it your current weight, your target weight (start by just aiming to lose a stone. You can adjust it later.) And then log your food and exercise each day and slowly and safely, the weight begins to drop after a few days.

MFPapp

The app and/or website is myFitnessPal. You can download the app to your phone. Pretty much any meal you can think of is in their database and if it isn’t just enter the components of the meal.

Going for a ten-minute walk? Log that in and it will up your daily allowance of calories. I recommend walking for 10,000 steps a day or as near to that as you can get.

When you start, you may go over the target quite a bit like you can see I did! But this is the point. You can then see which items are the problem and eat differently.

MFPfirstWeek

The week I started, I was on a road trip up North. When I stopped at the services, I saw they had my favourite junk food shop. A bought a steak pastie. Actually, I bought two! I had left it late to have lunch and felt hungrier than I really was. One would have done. Then I made it worse by eating a large chocolate bar as I drove.

You can see which day it was as I went into the red on the graph.

BUT over that week it was easy to pull it back so the weekly average was in target.

This week has been more stable.

MFPthisweek

Logging what you eat is the key to losing weight. I can easily eat two thirds of a packet of biscuits if I am not thinking about what I am doing. But when I have to log them, and see the empty calories, I manage to have one or two rather than ten!

As you can see from this screen shot – we’re not having a lettuce leaf for dinner!

MFPmeal

Some of my family lost weight on organised programs. They were effective but costly.

By contrast, MyFitnessPal is FREE.

I have no connection to the app or its owners. I am just a guy who was looking for a food-logging app and found a really great one. I highly recommend it.

At the moment the weight loss is going as predicted – a couple of pounds or more a week.

Another great feature is that you can link with a couple of friends and lose weight together, which is even more effective.

Try it. Let me know how you get on!

The four addictions

addiction01

At the start of 2014 I wanted to confront four addictions in my life.

  • Plastic
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Sugar

Why these four things? I observed that many, if not most, of us in the UK live as though these are daily essentials. They are also four things where the negative effects outweigh the perceived benefits.

Maybe you think that ‘addiction’ is too strong a word for our relationship to these things, and maybe it is. But the vast majority of people seem to struggle to get through the day without all four.

Plastic

We are surrounded by plastic. It is a useful material and is used to great benefit in many areas of life. I’ve not got a problem with that.

However, we are generating millions of tons of waste from single use plastic items like water bottles and milk containers and carrier bags and… And most of it ends up in the ocean.

There is so much plastic waste in the ocean that destroys life. Fish are eating it and when we eat the fish we are eating our own plastic waste.

That’s why I’m trying Plastic Free Tuesdays. It’s quite hard and requires a lifestyle change. We consume a lot of sparkling water, which previously came in single-use plastic bottles. So we switched to making our own sparkling water with a Soda Stream gizmo – one small example of how we have reduced our plastic waste. We are still working on this addiction.

Caffeine

Like most people, I really thought I needed that hit of caffeine first thing to crank up my body to face the day. But caffeine is a strong addictive drug. It is the fact that we are addicted to it that makes us think we ‘have to have it.’

Caffeine is in coffee but it’s also in tea – lots of teas not just ‘normal’ tea. It’s also in cola drinks and most energy drinks.

It might come as a surprise that caffeine is not just an addictive drug, it’s also a model drug of dependence

Caffeine is produced by more than seventy-five plants, which use it as a pesticide. That’s right – a pesticide! When we consume caffeine, our body thinks that some kind of emergency is happening. It floods itself with dopamine, epinephrine, cortisol, and acetylcholine. That’s what gives us that feeling of stimulation and being wide-awake and alert.

It takes about 24 – 36 hours to come off this drug so, if you are a daily consumer, prepare for a serious pounding headache for a whole day. Once you are off the drug, you’ll feel calmer, happier and less irritable. I quit thirty-six days ago and I’m not planning to go back. I no longer wake up with caffeine cravings and I can even have a cup of decaf right before bedtime and it doesn’t keep me awake.

Alcohol

I know I’ll have very few takers on this one! But… the whole nation has been brainwashed about this drug. A few facts:

  • Each year more than £800 million is spent on advertising alcoholic drinks in the UK, with the global estimate approximating $1 trillion.
  • In 2013 the UK government made £10.5 billion in tax on alcohol.
  • Average alcohol consumption has gradually fallen in many OECD countries between 1980 and 2009 with an average overall decrease of 9%. The United Kingdom however, has seen an increase of over 9% in these three decades.

For me, the thing was that alcohol is a big fat liar!

It’s a lie that it helps us relax – if alcohol caused us to relax then, when two drunks get into a fight on a Friday night, we would give them some more alcohol to calm them down… We associate it with relaxation because we often consume it in relaxing situations, and in moments when we are in relaxation mode.

It’s a lie that it ‘takes the edge off.’ If there is an edge, it was probably caused by the effects of alcohol the previous day. A healthier diet can produce a steady feeling of calm.

As I said, I’m not expecting a queue to sign up to this one(!), but having eliminated it from my life 198 days ago, I have to say that life is better. So many are cranking themselves up with caffeine in the morning and then calming the feelings of irritablilty that causes in the evening, by using alcohol numb their feelings. This pendulous swing in our metabolism places stress on the heart and other organs.

If, like some people I know, you have a small glass of something once a year if you remember to, then it isn’t an issue you need to think about.

Sugar

Here is the one I thought would be easiest and has proved to be the most addictive and difficult drug to kick. Our body needs some sugar and we can get the healthy version of this from things like fruit and honey. It’s the refined sugar that we get addicted to, and some have suggested it’s as dangerous as heroine.

Now the point of this blog is to suggest simple steps to improve your life. Tackling these three big beasties all in one year is a huge challenge. Also it may be possible to restrict or reduce them rather than giving up all together. So maybe pick the one that you think will be the easiest for you and see if you can go a week, a month, or a whole year without it.

I’ll let you know when I manage to kick the sugar (and the plastic!).

How many of these would you struggle to let go of?

A better start to your day

porridge

One of the really easy ways to improve your life is to make a small change at the beginning of your day. So many people are after a quick shot of energy in the morning but most breakfast cereals are full of refined sugar. But refined sugar is just ‘empty calories’. Refined sugar lacks the natural minerals which are present in sugar beet or cane.

In addition, sugar is worse than nothing because it drains and leaches the body of precious vitamins and minerals through the demand its digestion, detoxification and elimination makes upon your system.

So here is an alternative simple breakfast that’s great for your health. By the way, never skip breakfast! It’s the most important meal of the day.

For the best start to your day, try this easy-to-make super-breakfast. All the ingredients have proven health benefits. You will feel the results right away.

Porridge with soya milk and banana and a spoon of honey.

So why is this a better breakfast?

Porridge

Porridge helps fill you up, which prevents you from overeating. If you do not overeat, you will maintain or even lose weight. It also contains fibre which helps keep blood-sugar levels on an even keel and reduces the risk of high cholesterol.

Porridge contains a high amount of complex carbs, which get digested at a slow pace, unlike simple carbs. This gives you lasting energy.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that the body needs for vision, cell and tissue growth and reproduction. It is also an antioxidant, which helps destroy free radicals and reduce the risk for chronic disease. A 1-cup serving of porridge supplies more than 1,450 international units of vitamin A. The recommended daily value of this vitamin is 3,000 international units for men and 2,300 international units for women

Soya milk

The most important attribute of soya milk is its ability to improve your blood lipid profile. Unlike dairy milk, which is high in saturated fat and cholesterol, soya milk fat is mostly unsaturated with zero cholesterol. Soya milk is also naturally lower in sugar content than regular milk.

Banana

A banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy.

According to a recent survey undertaken by MIND, amongst people suffering from depression, many felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.

(If you don’t like bananas, try adding red fruits like raspberries for extra goodness.)

Honey

A small spoonful of honey will give the porridge a natural sweetness without using refined sugar.

Start every day with this super-breakfast for lasting energy and better health.

This breakfast has been a simple but powerful building block in improving my health and life. I hope it works for you.

What is your tip for a healthy start to the day?