Kitchen Ready for Eating Healthy

One of the biggest barriers to maintaining healthy eating habits comes in those moments when you are hungry and just want something to eat regardless! No one likes to be hungry.  Food is fuel and we need to tank up at least a few times in the day.  Unless you are stocked up and prepared for those moments, its pretty certain you’re going to grab whatever is quick, easily prepared or just to hand, to satisfy that growling tummy!!

Added to this we live in a world that makes it so easy for us to fill up on those convenient nutrition-less empty calories.   The occasional instant gratification is completely fine, but not only are we humans hungry creatures, we are also creatures of habit and that ‘occasional’ soon becomes a regular habit.  And, guess what, those same foods are usually addictive, so if you don’t want to get hooked you’re best off avoiding them.

Does this sound familiar to you?  Well you are not alone!  This is a challenge that so many of us deal with on a day to day basis, and the only way around it is to be prepared.  A really good place to start is with a kitchen makeover.  Bringing fresh energy and fresh food into the kitchen and removing all of the foods and items that make us unhealthy and unwell, is an important step to making better choices and overcoming food cravings and addictions.

The cure for what ails us all, in both our bodies and the world outside our front door, can be found in the kitchen.  It could be a place to rebuild community and connection, strengthen bonds with family and friends, teach life-giving skills to our children, and enrich and nourish our bodies and souls.

But first, we need to break the addiction cycle and put a halt to our cravings.  These cravings may have sabotaged your weight loss efforts now or in the past?  Why not stack the odds in your favour by removing the items that have kept you trapped, sick and miserable?  Or, to put it another way: Why not set yourself up for optimal success by making your kitchen a happy, hopeful place filled only with delicious real whole foods that will nourish and genuinely feed your body and soul?

If you make your kitchen a safe zone, with only foods that nourish rather than damage, then you will automatically make the right choices.  If you fill it with processed convenience foods, you will eat that junk no matter how much willpower you have.

Kitchen ready in 4 easy steps

Step 1:  Reclaim your kitchen by replacing anything that is processed with real, fresh, whole foods without labels. A fresh avocado or a kiwi doesn’t come with a nutrition facts label, a bar code or an ingredient list.  Some of the more questionable items are those that come in boxes, jars, cans and other packaging.  In other words most convenience foods.  When reading through the ingredients, look for items that you don’t recognize, can’t pronounce, are listed in Latin or aren’t items you would normally have in your cupboard. Think twice about purchasing  foods with health claims on the labels.  These claims usually signal a marketing ploy to make you think they’re good for you when they’re really just pretending to be healthy.  Examples include items like sports beverages, energy bars and even cereals fortified with this, that and the other.

Step 2: In a bid to remove all the junk food from the cupboard, don’t forget that this includes any food which contains added sugar and goods that contain refined and processed white flours.  Examples include biscuits, cakes, white bread and white pasta.  Even seemingly safe foods like spices and seasonings can contain maltodextrin and autolyzed yeast extract, that have no place in a healthy kitchen.  Sometimes you need a magnifier to read labels.  This is convenient for the food producer and makes it less likely that you will examine it.  Option 1:  Buy a magnifying glass?  Option 2:  Buy only packaged foods with a minimum of added ingredients.  If you are finding that you require a degree in food chemistry to identify the ingredients on a package, simply leave it on the supermarket shelf.

Step 3: Remove all unhealthy fats. The wrong fats can wreak havoc on your metabolism. Throw out any highly refined cooking oils such as corn and soy, fried foods you may have stored in your freezer and margarine or shortening. These products have dangerous trans fats that create inflammation and cause heart disease.  Check food labels for the words “hydrogenated fat” (another phrase for trans fat), which has been declared as unsafe for human consumption by the Food and Drug Administration [FDA} in the US.  The Food Safety Authority in Ireland is not quite there yet but cautions somewhat about excess consumption of trans fats.  The science is much more clear – they are damaging to your health, full stop!

Step 4: Throw out any food with artificial sweeteners of all kinds (aspartame, NutraSweet, Splenda, sucralose, and sugar alcohols — any word that ends with “ol,” like xylitol or sorbitol).  Stevia may be better than aspartame but only whole plant extract.  You may be able to purchase this from a health store.  And when using whole plant extract stevia, use it sparingly.  But remember, any sweetener can cause you to be hungry, lower your metabolism, create gas, disrupt you brain chemistry and store belly fat.  You can’t fool your body, it tastes the sweetness and looks for the hit.  No calories, no energy, no hit… physiological response… I need more!!  In the long run it may actually be wiser to use some cane or coconut sugar.

If you’re on a budget and don’t want to chuck out these toxic foods before you do your next shop, then just don’t continue to replace them once they are gone.  You will quickly and easily be able to swap them with delicious healthy alternatives that will leave you more than satisfied.

Stock Up On the Right Foods

Next, you’ll want to fill your fridge with plenty of fresh/frozen vegetables, fruits, healthy proteins and fats.  You’ll also want to keep plenty of healthy snacks around in case you ever run into a food emergency. Instead of reaching for sugary, processed snacks, you can reach for nourishing ones like nuts and seeds, dips and veggies, fresh fruit and more.

Step 1: Focus on non-starchy veggies. These are things like broccoli, kale, tomatoes, bok choy, peppers, asparagus, cauliflower and so much more!  Eat as many as you like!  Limit fruit to twice per day because, although healthy, they can increase your insulin levels.  Berries are low glycaemic and so these are fine.  Have your fruit with a source of fat or protein.  Example:  frozen berries with some live natural yogurt or an apple with a handful of almonds.  Whenever possible choose organic, seasonal and local produce.

Step 2: Stock up on dry foods. These staples usually have a longer shelf life and include raw or lightly roasted nuts and seeds, legumes, lentils, quinoa, brown or wild rice and gluten-free grains like oats, buckwheat and millet.  These can form the basis of hot, cold, savoury and sweet dishes.

Step 3: You’ll want to have a range of ingredients including herbs, seasonings and spices to hand.  Buy organic whenever possible.  ‘The Health Store Ireland’ do a range of organic spices ‘Suma’ which are no more expensive than what you buy in the supermarket.  Also, many of the Asian stores stock organic spices.  Because you only use a little of some of these, they tend to last a long time so you get a lot of value from them.  Here are some suggestions of what you might stock up on: Extra-virgin olive oil, extra-virgin coconut oil, sea salt, black peppercorns, and spices like turmeric, ginger, oregano, cayenne pepper, garlic and more.  If you buy these in the supermarket just read the labels to make sure they don’t contain hidden sugar, gluten or other problematic additives.

Step 4: Keep your fridge and freezer stocked with protein. Good protein choices include: boneless, skinless chicken and turkey breasts; beef, lamb and fish like sardines, salmon and herring.  Avoid those fish that are high in mercury such as tuna and swordfish.  Free range or organic eggs are a great source of protein as are  non-GMO soy food like tofu, tempeh and gluten-free miso.

Step 5: Get yourself a folder.  Build up your very own recipe collection and meal plans for the kitchen shelf.  No one knows you and your family’s taste buds better than you do.  It’s easy to just say, I’ll buy tons of veggies and some fruit and healthy meats and fats, but what are you going to do with all of that food?  Just start on a new path with a step by step approach to healthier eating.  Begin maybe with a breakfast makeover, snacks makeover, lunches make over then dinners makeover. Healthy does not have to be boring or tasteless.  Try to develop snack and meal plans that will ensure plenty of flavour and variety.  By degrees your shopping trolly will be filled with real, recognizable food.

Here’s one to start off your collection – a link to a recipe for home made ‘Low Sugar Sweet & Sour Sauce’ that can be used in many different dishes.  Its on the website of Christine Bailey, Nutritional Therapist, who was part of a BBC documentary about hidden sugars in everyday foods.

Eating food that is good for you is not about feeling deprived though it may seem like that if you haven’t even taken the first step.  If you choose the right foods and the right recipes, you can reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle without feeling denied.  With the right planning your’re well on your way to banishing those cravings and gaining your health back.   As creatures of habit it’s a little challenging at first but it will soon become effortless.  A new habit!  And remember, nothing tastes as good as healthy feels!

© Limelight Nutrition 2019

Shamrock Guac!

Holy Guacamole! 

Its green and it’s packed full of goodness, so its the perfect dish to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!  Guacamole has its origins with the Aztec’s of Mexico.  By most accounts, the ancient version of the dish was originally made with mashed avocados, chili peppers, tomatoes, white onions and salt.  Not that much has changed but there are more versions available today.  My recipe for guacamole is at the bottom of this post.

Guacamole is comprised mainly of avocados which are ranked as one of the top five healthiest foods in the world.  Although avocado is actually a fruit, it is great in both sweet and savoury dishes.  Its ‘superfood’ status has been cast into the shadows for years while low fat diets have been promoted in the media as a healthier option.  But, avocados are high in monounsaturated fatty acids [MUFA] that are critical for health and deliver many health benefits.

A food qualifies as a ‘superfood’ based on the amount of beneficial nutrients it contains and avocados are packed full of nutrients that promote many health benefits.  Even the perceived downside of it being a ‘high fat’ food does not warrant leaving it on the supermarket shelf.  These are healthy fats that actually help you absorb the other nutrients the fruit contains.

100g of avocado contains between 10-26% RDA [recommended daily allowance] of Vitamin E, B6, B5, Potassium [more than bananas], Vitamin C, Folate and Vitamin K.  It contains smaller amounts of magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, Vitamin B1, B2 and B3.  160 calories, 2 grams of protein, 15 grams of healthy fat, 9 grams of carbohydrates, 7 of which is fibre.  No cholesterol or sodium.   The fatty acids are oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat like that in olive oil.  These fats help with absorption of fat soluble vitamins and antioxidants.  Speaking of antioxidants, avocados contain carotenoids including lutein and zeaxanthin.

Here are just some of the health benefits of consuming nutrient dense avocados:

Improved heart health:  By balancing blood lipids with high monounsaturated fatty acids [oleic acids].  Vitamin K helps with circulation and fibre, magnesium and potassium are shown to reduce blood pressure.

Healthy skin and eyes:  Again the healthy fats lubricate and nourish the skin from the inside out.  The carotenoids including lutein and zeaxanthin are very beneficial for eye health.  Avocados are anti-aging.

Helps weight loss: Yes, you heard it right!  Diets that are lower in carbohydrates (especially glycaemic loaded foods like refined carbs) and higher in healthy fats, are known to accelerate weight loss.  So, if you are looking to lose weight fast, eat more avocados and less white refined carbs. Also, fats are more filling and increase satiety hormones that help you eat less overall.

Improved digestive health: Avocados are rich in fibre that feed your beneficial gut bacteria and bulk up the stool.  This makes for easier transit through the colon helping the body remove waste and toxins.

Protection from diabetes: Avocados are rich in MUFAs that promote healthy blood lipid profiles, improve insulin sensitivity and regulate blood glucose levels.   MUFA dense foods can help decrease glucose and insulin concentrations for hours compared with carbohydrate rich foods.

Better mood and balanced hormones: Because various neurotransmitters and hormones are made in the body from fatty acids in the diet, you will automatically benefit these systems when you eat enough healthy fats.  Considering 60% of our brain is made up of fat, it is not surprising that healthy fats are good for brain function, mood and memory.

The following guacamole recipe serves 4 and is gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian.  It’s just like they serve it in Mexico.  It works well as a side dish or with crudities or oat cakes.  Once made it will keep in the fridge in an airtight jar or container.  Just pour a thin layer of water over the top, then put the lid on and pop it in the fridge – this will stop it browning.  When serving, drain off as much of the water as you can, give it a good mix and it will be as good as new.

Guacamole

Source: Google Images

Ingredients:

  • 2 large ripe avocados
  • ¼ large red onion, diced
  • 10g (¼ oz) fresh coriander finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Coarse salt and pepper

Method:

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pit, scoop the flesh from the skin and add it to a large bowl.  Add in the onion, coriander, garlic, lime juice and a good pinch of coarse salt and pepper.

Mash everything together with a fork so it is chunky / smooth to your liking.  You can also use a blender.  Taste and add more salt, pepper or lime to your liking.

Serve straight away or store as suggested above.

Have a Happy and Healthy St. Patrick’s Day 🙂

© Limelight Nutrtion 2019

Gobble Gobble

Gobble, gobble says the turkey, as if it knows its fate this time of year!  I have to admit I love to gobble turkey.  My Grandfather and uncle had a small farm and reared turkeys for the Christmas market.  Every Christmas my uncle would arrive with a massive turkey that could barely fit in our oven.  But even before it got that far, it hung upside down from the roof of our lean-to conservatory for a day or two.  Its broken neck and blood-filled head with the odd un-plucked feather, was a curious and slightly scary sight for an urban dweller.  A scene that could have been a turning point to veganism, as the head came off and the gizzards were yanked from its belly, did not a vegan make!  Year in and year out my mother spent half the night preparing and stuffing a giant bird for Christmas dinner.  On waking Christmas day, the house was always filled with the aroma of stuffed turkey cooking in the oven.  Such a massive bird needed a head start on the rest of the day.

It seems apt that the spirit animal of the turkey symbolizes connection with Mother Earth and the abundance the earth provides.  It represents nourishment in our life, harvesting the fruits of our efforts, community, generosity and sharing.  This totem animal encourages us to honour our sources of nourishment, whether they are physical, emotional or spiritual. The turkey reminds us to develop a harmonious relationship with the land and our environment and consider them as foundations to our well-being and sustenance.  Turkey totem is a powerful guide to unlocking the fullness of life and feeling content with what we have instead of accumulating material belongings to seek happiness.

Continue reading “Gobble Gobble”

Banana Oat Snack Bars

Wait… don’t throw out those spotty bananas.  Here’s a recipe I often use to make these delicious and filling seed/nut bars.  It is so quick and easy to put together.  If you’re someone that skips breakfast at home because your morning schedule is hectic then these are perfect to transport and eat when you can eventually take five!  Also ideal for a mid-morning or afternoon snack or the kiddies school lunchbox.

Nuts and seeds are so full of essential minerals but we are often low on ideas of how to include them in the diet.  The sweetness and moisture of these bars comes from the ripe bananas, maple syrup and dates.  These increase the glycaemic load [GL], so don’t go overboard, it’s still a sweet treat!!  However, the 183 calories per bar are not ’empty calories’, they’re packed with healthy nutrients.

One bar gives you 8% of your recommended daily intake [RDI] of sugar and 10% RDI of fibre which will help dull down that sugar spike.  The cinnamon will also help balance blood sugar.  High in natural polyunsaturated fats including 25% RDI of Omega 3.  High in essential minerals and trace minerals especially manganese at 44% RDI.  Manganese is an important trace mineral needed for many vital functions, including nutrient absorption, production of digestive enzymes, bone development and immune-system defenses.  You are also getting Vitamin E, some of the B vitamins including a high amount of B5 to keep you calm, and the amino acid ‘tryptophan’ at 129mg per 100g to help regulate mood, sleep and hormone balance.   Well worth the 10 minutes it might take to mix it up – ready for the oven.

The great thing about this recipe is that most of the ingredients have a long shelf life making it easy to include as one of your regular bakes.

Recipe

Source:   Eat Your Greens.com

180g rolled oats (use gluten free oats for ‘gluten free’)
50g sunflower seeds
50g pumpkin seeds
35g almonds, roughly chopped
35g walnuts, roughly chopped
45g pitted dates, chopped
3 small or 2 large ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1 tablespoon of Maple Syrup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Butter or coconut oil, for greasing baking tray

Method

Preheat oven to 350°F / 180° C or 160° C (Fan).  Grease the bottom and sides of the baking tray or line it with greaseproof paper.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, seeds, nuts and dried fruit.  Place the bananas, vanilla or maple syrup, salt and cinnamon in the bowl of a small food processor or blender and process until smooth. This can also be done without a blender. Pour the banana puree over the oat mixture and stir until all the dry ingredients are evenly moist.  Press mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, until firm and lightly browned on the edges.  Let cool completely and cut into 12 bars.  You can store them in an airtight container for a couple days.  They will keep in the fridge for a week or more.  You can also wrap them individually and place them in a freezer bag or container and freeze them for up to 3 months.

You can really enjoy this ‘sweet treat’ knowing your body is getting the nutrients it needs to stay healthy 🙂   Oh…. and they really do taste Yum!

Recipe adapted from 'Eat Your Greens - Nut & Seed Banana Oat Bars' 2013