Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Health Kick Kicks In

So, as is traditional this time of year (usually coinciding with that first, horrific trip to the shops to purchase swimwear) me and the other half are on a 'health kick'. While the stream of articles that litter women's magazines on making yourself "beach ready" infuriate me (who has time for a 2 week juicing detox, or a spare £200 to splash out on a figure enhancing, designer bikini?) the thought of exposing my pale, middle-aged body on a beach full of gorgeously lithe, olive-skinned beauties when we go on holiday in August doesn't exactly fill me with confidence, either. Don't most of us get that summer feeling of wanting to be just a bit lighter, a bit more energetic and a bit more glowing at around this point in the calendar? And there's nothing like turning 40 to remind you that your face and body need all the help they can get...

Our summer holiday destination

Several months on from trying to reduce my sugar intake (which I blogged about here)  I'm noticing small but significant changes, helping me stay away from the biscuit jar. I feel less sluggish and perhaps a bit less dimply of thigh. There isn't a weight loss motivation behind me doing this, but I was quite ill last year with a long-lasting virus and when a friend suggested giving up sugar as a remedy to the debilitating headaches I'd been getting, it seemed an obvious thing to try. I can't say with conviction what sorted me out in the end, but taking a long hard look at my diet and being more aware of hidden sugars certainly helped.

More recently I've been trying to address my issues with bread. I bloody love the stuff. But it's just not that good for you, is it? I can't say I like rye bread but it helps to satisfy my bread cravings (only just, though.) I can do without toast at breakfast but a sandwich, panini or baguette would be my lunch of choice. So, I'm limiting a bread-based lunch to the two days I work in an office (purely for convenience's sake) and am then avoiding bread on other days. 

I'm eating a lot of spelt crackers at the mo - nice with almond butter as a light lunch or in-between snack (Food Doctor wholegrain spelt crackers are available at most big supermarkets.) Talking of spelt, we tried spelt spaghetti the other day (white pasta is another of my weaknesses) and it was...okay. For me, nothing can replace proper pasta, but as we eat it a lot as a family I wanted to try an alternative. The kids didn't bat an eyelid about this strange new pasta - I was convinced they'd turn their noses up at it - so that was good; less good is the price point, as a 500g packet set me back £2.45. A packet of normal spaghetti is around the £1 mark so you can see the disparity.

Some low-sugar alternatives

Cost is something that is proving the biggest barrier to maintaining my good intentions. I simply can't afford to buy all organic, fill my basket with wholesome goodies from Holland & Barrett or indulge my romantic notions of starting every day with a home-made green juice, courtesy of a shiny Vitamix blender. Plus, life is really too short to be scouring the supermarket shelves searching for buckwheat noodles or raw cacao. But there are some healthy eating tips that I reckon are worth going the extra mile for, and luckily they don't cost the earth. Here are some other things that are working quite well for me at the moment...

Kale salad - not at all unpleasant

1. Shopping for basics at Lidl

Great for stocking up on the fruit and veg shop - so much cheaper than other supermarkets and the quality is pretty consistent. Items like blueberries, avocados, spinach and salad leaves are a significantly cheaper here. Buying basics at Lidl makes buying more expensive items like the aforementioned spelt pasta more viable. 

2. Swapping my morning latte for green tea

Apparently dairy gives you spots. So the morning lattes have been replaced by green tea, a cheap way to get a good dose of antioxidants. I'm getting quite fond of the taste. 

3. Making vat loads of Jamie Oliver's Tomato Sauce

I get why my kids won't eat kale or broccoli but I still want them to eat well, too. Feeding them veg by stealth is my modus operandi, and this sauce (annoyingly the recipe not available online) is a good one for getting them to eat squash, courgette and carrots without even realising. This recipe is similar to the one I've been making.

I also tried Jamie's Veggie Chilli recently and my kids weren't fully convinced but they were also not completely horrified by it. I think I'll convert them in's the recipe. 

If these fail, most kids like pesto but to give it some extra nutritional value I wilt down massive handfuls of spinach in a pan with a little bit of butter, whiz in a blender and then add to the sauce - a quick way to top up your little veggie-phobes with some vitamins.

4. Trying the easier recipes on the Deliciously Ella website

A lot of healthy recipes not only require you being able to track down hard-to-find items but you also need to have quite a bit of time at your disposal so anything that involves simply dumping ingredients in a food processor is just fine by me. This is why the recipes on the Deliciously Ella site are so convenient as many involve nothing so taxing as a bit of chopping and a bit of whizzing. I have so far enjoyed the marinated kale salad - majorly virtuous and a lot nicer than the recipe suggests - and the cinnamon pecan granola which I'm using as a topper for fat-free natural yogurt in the mornings. It's delicious and a whole lot better for you than the high-sugar manufactured stuff. There are lots of other quick, relatively cost-effective ideas to try on the site.

Granola - not faffy to make at all

5. Finding the right exercise

Turns out I don't mind team sports (despite being pretty dismal at them at school)and it's true what they say - this sort of exercise feels so much less of a punishment. While I still don't fully understand the rules, my footwork sucks and I don't have a competitive bone in by body I've somehow ended up on a netball team. Playing in a proper league and everything! This entails weekly training and a weekly match, providing a much-needed cardio-vascular workout which I'm actually enjoying. Training is free thanks to a great initiative from England Netball (read more here) and match subs are about £3 per match. A total bargain.



  1. Thus post really resonates, am trying to the same. Mostly failing. Am motivated by your comments that you are feeling less sluggish.

  2. Thanks, Gemma. Stick with it - it does get easier and becomes second nature after a bit. Still struggling to remember that wine has lots of sugar in it!

  3. I somewhat relate, 40 this August, swimming costumes, and a tummy which looks like I am 12 weeks pregnant!! Did try gluton free for 2 weeks, but I ended up feeling worse digestion wise (I blame the gluton free cereal which seemed to plug me up!), it's an expensive diet so in some ways I was relieved in made no difference to my energy levels!! Definitely going to try the granola recipe:) #thriftythursday


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