For this blog post I wanted to write a more practical type of post about a topic, being stuck in food ruts, that I often see people struggle with in my clinical practice and it is definitely not something I am immune to struggle with myself.
Maybe it is a completely human thing, to get stuck in ruts. With what we are eating, and how we are thinking and even behaving? Often we say thing like “You can’t teach an old dog new trix” and “He/she is so set in their ways, they’ll never change”. However this is actually not true. It’s a myth that we keep perpetuating by strengthening those neuropathways, telling ourselves that it is true…
Have you ever heard of the term Neuroplasticity?
The definition of neuroplasticity is: the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury.
This short video explains it really well. In short, it means that we do have the ability to change and adapt to circumstances and life events. Probably a good thing!
We also create change through intention. What I mean by that is that we need, using awareness, to work on intentionally creating new thought patterns, new behaviours which we want to engage in and of course new ways with food, if we want to get out of those ruts and make some new neuronal pathways.
So there, it definitely is possible to get un-stuck, but it may require a little intentionallity.
I think that because eating is a necessity, and when our attention and energy is focused elsewhere, the most natural thing is to default to our ingrained habits. Eating something, anything, is better than going hungry and of the irritability, mind fog and lack of energy that goes with that. Never anything wrong with honouring our hunger.
Don’t forget that we live in a culture and society where it completely possible to take care of your physical hunger needs without ever putting a foot in your own kitchen (or anybody else’s for that matter). So if this is how you are feeding yourself at times, no need to feel shameful about that. But maybe you’d like to change some of it as it could give you more choice and a sense of empowerment.
Here are my five tips on how to get out of food ruts. Whether it is wanting to cook more food in general, eating a wider variety of foods or just starting to think about learning some new recipes, I hope you find something useful from this list that will widen your lens a little and spark some new ideas.
Focus on colour
If you’ve been following my work for some time, you may have noticed that I am drawn to creating meals that are colourful. Eat a Rainbow, has to be one of the easiest nutritional advice to adhere to. By trying to incorporate something from each colour of the rainbow every day, you are naturally getting a more varied intake of fruits and vegetables. If you can vary the types of foods from each colour category, even better! Maybe you find some orange peppers and a yellow courgette to pair with some green spinach. Have fun trying out some different colours of your usual favourites. Variety and diversity seems to have many health benefits.
Have a think about Meal Planning
Sometimes I see people within Intuitive Eating groups shun the idea of meal planning and meal prepping. I do understand where they are coming from, since such a strong premise of eating intuitively is to “eat when you are hungry as well as what you are truly hungry for”. But life is rarely that black and white (plus that definitive way of thinking belongs to diet mentality anyway. Flexibility is the name of the game here!)
Just note that you making a plan for what you’d like to eat is not the same as slavishly following meal plan set by someone else. It can be incredibly useful to have some kind of structure, to take the stress out of making meals, especially if you are already ravenous when you start cooking…
One thing I encourage my clients to look at is to look at how their schedule for the week ahead looks like. Which days to you have time to cook something from scratch? Which days may you be eating out? Which days would you prefer to just heat some leftovers or put together a few bits and pieces for a simple meal? If you start here you may take some of the stress out of feeding yourself. It is totally cool to re heat some soup for dinner or a quick lunch, as well as having a smoothie, sandwich or salad (I actually have porridge in the evening too at times… Shhs, don’t tell anyone…) especially if you’ve eaten a larger meal during the day.
Ok, so I am not talking about those typical food prep pictures you see on social media where there are seven same type of meals in containers… And I’ve always wondered what that chicken, broccoli and sweet potato looks like on day seven… Never mind what it would smell like!
This blog post from Green Kitchen Stories have a nice take on Meal Prepping in my opinion. Their philosophy is more about having staples ready that can be made into different meal combinations throughout the week. This is often how I eat. It works well for a single person and it must work reasonably well for a family too as they have three kids!
Try a new food every week
Trying something new is an easy way of getting out of ruts. And luckily the variety of fresh fruits and veg that are available these days in our everyday supermarkets are so much better than what it used to be. So next time you are shopping and see a food you haven’t tried before, be brave and have a go!
Learn a new recipe once a week / month
This is something I did a few years ago. Where I intentionally picked up one of my cookbooks, and I have added many more to my collection since, to pick a recipe that I wanted to try out. Maybe it was a new combination of foods to try, or a recipe that offered a new skill. Or maybe a recipe to suit a new ingredient.
Even if you only own one cook book or if you rather use Google, this is a really good way to add new meal favourites to your weekly repertoire. Cooking is a skill that takes practice to master. Not all of us are gifted with it intuitively or got given the skills passed on from our parents when growing up. I also get that it is challenging if you actually have no interest in cooking meals from scratch.
Sometimes though what it takes is a change in attitude to the whole thing. That cooking for ourselves and spending time in the kitchen is a form of self care. You deserve to eat foods that are tasty and nourishing. I have seen these kinds of mindset shifts take place in clients and it has been revolutionary! Your kitchen can be your sanctuary. (Perhaps that’s a topic for another blog post?)
I hope you have found some of these ideas useful. Here is another article that I came across on my search, that speaks into this topic.
You can also get my Useful Kitchen Tool List + My Pantry Staples List <<— Click links & Download.
And sign up below for the Rainbow Bowl Ebook below, if that’s your thing.
Before the winter bugs hit and before it’s too late to pick ripe elderberry off the trees, have a go at this simple recipe and make your own immune boosting remedy. This was the first time I’ve tried making elderberry syrup myself so I used another recipe as a base and then went on to improvise a little. The result is a fairly sweet, dark purple liquid which tastes almost like mulled wine. Perhaps one could pare it with some brandy for a double whammy? Let me know for sure if you go down that route!
Funny thing is, while it is a few Sundays since I was preparing this concoction, as I currently write this I am struck down with a cold. So I suppose this is my opportunity to put the syrup to the test… (Thank you Universe.) When you are used to having tons of energy all the time, any level of decline is rather frustrating as it kind of stops you in your tracks. Well at least it forces you to take the foot of the the throttle for a little while. There I was, just returning to the running group in town and back to a 2-day-week Pilates schedule (one of my favourite ways to exercise). Typical. I’m thinking the lads in the running club, who has not seen me for months, must think I am a bit soft if I don’t turn up again this week… Well I suppose I just have to remind myself that “what other people think of me is not my business”. Easier said that done though. But in the end of the day it is important to listen to our bodies as they always knows best. I’m not sick enough to feel the need to cut out my training altogether but I will bring it back a little, so I can recover faster.
September has been amazing here and extended summer by another month. Which in turn means, woolly hats, cosy fires and warming soups have been put on hold for little while. No complaints here. It has also meant that there has been a savage supply of blackberries this year. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many of them. We have been picking berries over the past few weeks and my freezer is full of the little black gems. They are sure to be featured here on a later stage. But for now I let some of the other beautiful black berries take center stage.
Have you ever thought about how amazingly wonderful it is that just as we move in to colder months, when colds and flues seem to more easily take hold, nature has provided us with a solution right here in front of us? Like elderberries.
They are jam packed with antiviral-busting nutrients! These tiny little gems are full of Vitamin A, B and C as well as the antioxidant proanthocyanidins, which gives the berries their dark purple colour. Vitamin C together with zinc has been shown in some studies to help shorten times it takes to recover from common colds so it is well worth eating foods that are high in Vitamin C on a regular basis. Vitamin C is also one of the water soluble vitamins, which means the body doesn’t tend to store it in any larger capacity so you will need to keep your stores replenished on an ongoing basis if you want to keep your deference high. Some limited studies have shown elderberries to be particularly efficient against the usual winter viruses. Some sources seems to point that the natural compounds in elderberries activates the immune system to respond better and stronger, helping the body to clear and recover from viruses / influenza much quicker. That it actually tastes nice is an added bonus.
If you go looking you will probably find a lot more than elderberry growing along the hedgerows. When I opened my eyes and became a lot more mindful about what was naturally growing around me, I found blackberries (of course), but also rosehips and a tree full of damsons (wild plums).
This recipe yields about 2 cups of syrup so if you want to keep a full supply for the entire winter you will probably need to double it. Picking the amount of berries needed shouldn’t prove too difficult, as long as the birds didn’t get there first!
* A word of warning – Raw elderberries are actually poisonous so please resist the temptation to taste test while you are picking them, or you might end up in A&E. Probably not what you had in mind for a Sunday afternoon…
Homemade Elderberry Syrup
Makes roughly 2 cups finished syrup.
2 cups freshly picked elderberries, stems removed
2 cup filtered water
1/2″ of fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 cinnamon stick
5 cardamom pods
1/2 cup of raw honey, preferably local
When you pick the elderberries go for the darkest coloured ones, which still looks fresh and plump. To remove the stems gently separate the berries with a fork. I say gently here as if you are too keen, your berries will scatter everywhere! Discard any berries which are swiveled or not ripe. Give the rest a quick rinse.
Add berries and water to a large pot. Take all your spices and gather them up in a little cloth of muslin. Tie your parcel with a string and add it to your pot. Bring the whole thing to the boil and then reduce heat to a gentle simmer for about 20 min. Allow the mixture to cool a little before straining through a sieve lined with muslin. Use the back of a wooden spoon to press gently on the berries to release as much liquid as you can. Once you have gathered all the liquid, discard berries, muslin and spices. If you have a compost bin, by all means put it in there. By now your kitchen will probably smell like Christmas. How bad.
Add in your honey and stir until it has combined with your lovely purple liquid. Then carefully store in some sterilised jars in the fridge. Take a table spoon of liquid a few times over the course of a few days if you feel a cold or flu coming on and hopefully it will not amount to anything.
Are you part of the Green Smoothie Club? If smoothies are a very recent addition to your daily menu, making it a green one may still feel a little daunting. Or if having liquidized greens still seems a little ‘too out there’ for you, yet you are curious about trying out one – then this recipe is for you.
The Green Smoothie for Beginners is the first part in my upcoming smoothie series. I have a couple more refreshing raw drinks in the pipeline for you while the season is still primed for indulging in raw foods. Smoothies, particularly green ones is such a simple step to increase the amount of raw food in your daily diet, and your intake of vegetables over all.
I don’t own a fancy blender like a Nutri-bullet or a Vitamix (I wish I did though…). The basic blender I had, which had a good glass jug I broke by putting something too hot in it. Kitchen mishaps… So these days I’m back to using my trusted hand blender (actually I wore one out and had to replace it as I couldn’t do with out!) I’m not one for (too many) fancy kitchen gadgets but my hand blender is one gadget I certainly couldn’t live without. I’ve even taken it on holiday with me. How sad it that?
Ever since I broke my blender jug, green smoothies has been off my menu, as I believed my little hand blender would not be strong enough to blend the green leaves. The key to a really good green smoothie is to make sure that the leaves are really well chopped up. You simply won’t have that fabulous of an experience if you have to chomp through chunks of leaves. I mean, it’s called smoothie for a reason. Right? Anyhow, we have been getting some great fresh produce here lately which included both spinach and the utterly beautiful rainbow chard. So I though, let’s put the hand blender to the test and see if it is possible to make some kind of green smooth(ie) goodness with it.
Success! Here you are. My basic green smoothie recipe for beginners, using only a hand blender. No excuses now, not to try out these greenies.
Most of the smoothies I make includes two of my favourite ingredients, banana and avocado. Both of them add a lovely creaminess to any smoothie and the healthy fat from the avocado helps to counteract any possible blood sugar spike from the fruit. Having smoothies as oppose to juices means you will get all the fibre from the fresh produce too.
Green Smoothie For Beginners
1/2 an avocado
1 small banana or 1/2 of a big one, peeled & chopped
a fist of soft green mild-tasting leaves, like chard or spinach – washed
1 kiwi, peeled & roughly chopped
a squeeze of lime – optional
200ml of filtered water or plant milk of choice
Scoop out the flesh of the avocado and add together with the rest of the ingredients to your blender and blend until smooth. Pour your smoothie into a glass. Top with some Chia seeds, bee pollen or any other fancy super food you can think of. Or do what I do when not styling for a photo shoot – have it straight from the container…
Congrats! You are now well on your way to a healthier, more wholesome lifestyle. Don’t worry if your tastebuds protest a little at first. Practice makes perfect.
Summer has arrived! Well almost. I’ve been told that 1st of May is officially the first day of Summer. But in reality I think 1st of June is more like it… This past week(s) has been pretty crazy with lots of things to do, places to be and many exciting opportunities and projects coming my way. There is so much excitement and anticipation in the air right now, I find it a little tough to stay grounded at times. Wise from previous life experience, I am mindful not to burn out, which can so easily happen. I’m sure we have all been there… Even when it is positive stress, it can still become to much. Not good.
So what to do? Well, eating well is certainly top priority since we need even more resources to draw from when life is extra busy. However, time is usually a factor, so eating well on the run is an art in itself, I think. OK, so by now you have probably figured out that I love breakfast, like to keep it simple, have a slightly sweet tooth and enjoy spending as long as possible in bed in the mornings. So as much as I like porridge, it’s takes a little too long for my liking. Smoothies are more in line with my time schedule, but not always suitable. Enter Overnight Oats. In a Kilner jar. This is the ultimate breakfast on the run. It takes no time at all to assemble the night before and is easily portable. Goodness in a jar. Extra time in bed. What more can you ask for when life is in full flight?
This recipe is the taste of Summer, with both strawberries and rhubarb in the same dish. I can still remember the big leafy rhubarbs we had growing at home in the garden at the back of the house. Me and my brother used to pick the tender stalks to chew on. Scrunching our faces from the tartness. I can still vividly recall those fond childhood memories every time I eat fresh rhubarb.
This dish has another Swedish element to it as the idea of adding Earl Grey tea to the compote came from a Swedish cookbook I got as a present this Christmas. Earl Grey is my favourite black tea. It has such a comforting feeling and the aromas of bergamot gives a depth which “normal” black tea lack. At least that’s what I think.
Originally I planned to pair this rhubarb compote with a different partner, to share with you. But after using some leftover compote I had made last weekend, with my breakfast earlier this week and loving it so much, I decided to this combination was worth sharing instead. And surely you don’t mind another breakfast recipe?
Have a taste of Summer. Make it portable. Take time to savour it. Visualize all the possibilities which lays ahead in the weeks and months to come. We are almost there. Spring has sprung. Get ready for the next season ahead 🙂
A little note about this recipe; The rhubarb compote will make about four servings. You can pair it anyway you like really. It’s equally nice hot or cold. The compote will keep in the fridge for a few days. Personally I like the addition of chia seeds to my overnight oats as they help soak up the liquid and create a nice creamy consistency. That they are little power houses of nutrition is an added bonus. Use a plant based milk if you wish to keep the dish dairy free and use gluten free oats for a gluten free breakfast option. There isn’t much sugar in this recipe. I have only used honey to stew the rhubarb which also gives them an amazing flavour. No sugar added for the strawberries. If you do find the whole thing a little tart then adjust to your own taste preferences.
Overnight Oats with Earl Grey Infused Rhubarb Compote
For Rhubarb Compote:
4 stalks of rhubarb, washed & roughly chopped
2 tbsp raw clear honey – preferably local
1 Earl Grey tea bag
4 cardamom pods
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste – or vanilla extract
1 tbsp arrow root powder
100 ml water
For Lime Marinated Strawberries:
200g strawberries, washed and halved
juice of 1/2 lime
For Overnight Oats:
Approx 1/2 cup rolled oats, preferably organic – use gluten free if necessary
1 tbsp chia seeds
Milk of choice – enough to cover the oat mixture
Start by marinating the strawberries. Add strawberries and lime juice to a bowl and toss until the berries are well coated in the juice. Place the bowl in the fridge, covered, until you want to use them.
To make the Rhubarb Compote: Add the chopped rhubarb to a large heavy based saucepan. Add in the honey and stir until the rhubarb is well coated. Stew them gently on a medium heat until yo have a creamy consistency of rhubarb deliciousness. It will take about 30min. Once your compote is almost smooth, remove from heat. In the meantime make your tea by putting the tea bag plus the cardamom pods in a mug. Add about 100ml of boiling water. Cover the mug with a small plate and let the whole thing infuse for about 5 min. Take out the tea bag and pods before adding the tea to the rhubarb compote.
To thicken the compote mix 1 tbsp arrow root powder with 1 tbsp water in a glass, into a thick paste. Add the arrow root paste to the rhubarb compote and stir until it has thickened up. It will take about a minute. Add the vanilla bean paste in last thing and give the whole thing another whirl. You can serve the compote as it is, warm with anything creamy or keep it plain. To use it with your overnight oats for the following day, let it cool completely before you add it to the Kilner jar.
I have found using a Kilner jar the very best for practicality, so getting one is well worth the investment. Start by adding the rhubarb compote as the bottom layer. The add your rolled oats, plus chia seeds. Pour your choice of milk on top of the oats until just covered. Give the whole thing a twist with a spoon to get the chia seeds to spread evenly amongst the oats. Close the lid and store your jar in the fridge overnight. In the morning, just take the jar from the fridge and top with your lime marinated strawberries. Indulge having a dessert for breakfast. If you are on the run – simply grab and go for a date with Summer later.
What about a quick nourishing meal that doesn’t take time or effort to make? Or cost the earth? This dish is one of my all time favourites. If it wasn’t for the simple fact that my body seem to crave the odd bit of meat, I could easily and happily eat this kind of food everyday. One of the main challenges when you switch from a diet heavily influenced by convenience food to natural wholesome goodness, is that it actually has to be prepared and cooked… In the beginning this seems like such hard work.
You come home from work after a long day at work. Bloodsugar levels are at an all time low, your mood and energy levels likewise, and you are ready to eat anything that is remotely edible. Or if you’re like me, eat the head of someone else!
Being prepared is key. There is no getting away from this simple fact. You also need to arm yourself with some basic kitchen gadgets and cooking skills. But basic really is all you need. Think; a good sharp knife, a couple of good sauce pans, a frying pan and a hand blender. I’m a lazy cook. I always tell my clients this fact. If I can do it. You can too. Cook, well more like assembly, tasty nourishing meals.
I always loved vegetables and fruit. Due to my inherent sweet tooth, the fruit consumption can often surpass the veggie one though. So it can be tough to get all the recommended amount of portions in. The other day my friend told me that WHO is now recommending 17 (!) portions of vegetables incl. some fruit for our diets to be disease preventable. Wow. That’s a lot of eating… To get to that level, juicing will have to be part of it. Impossible otherwise I would think.
Believe it or not, there was a time when I use to come home from work, open the fridge or the pantry and stare at all the lovely stuff, ravenous, just to state the fact that I had plenty of food. But it had to be cooked into something! These days through perseverance, I have learnt some simple ways around this frustrating situation. No, the answer it is not having a frozen pizza in the freezer. Even though it was one of mine in the past… It’s all about being prepared. And having a little knowledge. Batch cooking is key. For cheap, wholesome meals, legumes are your friend. Keep a few tins in your store cupboards at all times and you are ready to go in minutes. If you cook them from dry, you can cook larger batches and freeze some. The same with wholegrain rice or wholegrain spelt which I have used here. Your cooked grains and legumes will keep for a few days in the fridge too, so no panic if your freezer is very small, or non existent.
I prefer warm food when the weather is cold. So if I have a raw salad I need to combine it with something warm. Sometimes that could be roasted veg with some green leafy lettuce leaves. Or it could be a mixed salad with an omelette. Equally simple. If you have some pre-cooked grains in your fridge or freezer, coupled with some legumes all you need to do is to toss them in a hot pan with some of your favourite vegetables. Simple as, and you have a wholesome meal in minutes! If you make enough, you can even enjoy the leftovers for lunch the following day.
Whole grains are a great source of stress-busting B-Vitamins. When the grain is consumed whole and totally unrefined as with these spelt grains, they are actually fairly high in protein too. Sometimes even as high as 16%. Chickpeas are an excellent source of plant based protein too. The classic vegetarian way of combining grains with pulses, ensure that all 20 amino acids are covered. The few which are missing in the grain is in abundance in your pulses, so cleverly you will get a complete source of protein.
You can use any grains with any pulses really. Once you have upped your kitchen confidence, then stretch your imagination and use a different kind of grain with a different kind of bean or lentil. And then simply toss in any veg, which is lurking in your fridge! Heat in pan, season & tuck in!
Weekday Chickpea Salad
1 cup of chickpeas, cooked
1 cup of spelt grains, cooked
3 cups of kale, washed, chopped with stems removed
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small red chilli, chopped – remove seeds if you want it less hot or use a pinch of dry chilli flakes
7-8 cherry tomatoes, washed & halved – Optional but delicious **I forgot to add mine this time when making it for the photographs!**
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper, to season
Parmesan, Pecorino or Machego, grated on top before serving
Heat your pan, then add the a good splash of olive oil. Quickly add your chopped garlic and chilli. Stir until soften but not burnt. Add in the kale and sauté until it start looking slightly wilted. Add your chickpeas and spelt grains. Keep stirring until heated through.
Serve in two bowls with some grated cheese on top. If you intend to have some cold the following day, leave the cheese out and add just before eating. The cheese isn’t integral to the dish but do give a different flavour dimension. I don’t tend to feel well with dairy but can tolerate sheep’s cheese so hence the Pecorino or Manchego.
It’s Pancake Tuesday! Finally. What more do I have to say. Pancakes are really good any time of year, especially on a lazy Sunday morning. For the past few years I’ve had friends over to my house for Pancake Tuesday. It’s great to cook and share a meal with your best friends.
The Irish tradition is to serve them with some lemon juice and sugar. Or with Nutella. I used to be a eating-nutella-with-a-spoon-straight-out-of-the-jar kind of girl. These days I prefer to make my own hazelnut spread though. Then you can be sure that it only has wholesome goodness ingredients. No funny E-numbers or cheap vegetable oils.
Last year I made lovely spelt pancakes with butter milk and fried in butter. Super tasty, and really great if you can tolerate dairy. My body seems to be happier without dairy products though, so I have made these pancakes with Koko coconut milk, but use any plant milk you prefer. Keeping with the “free from” theme, I used brown rice flour. Rice seems to be the grain best tolerated by most people with sensitive digestive systems. It is actually possible to have nice pancakes without both wheat and dairy. I did add an egg, hence they are not egg free, or vegan. Personally I find to hard to achieve that proper pancake consistency without eggs, but if you have a great egg free pancake recipe, please share. I would love to hear about it 🙂
The bananas add a lovely body to the batter and a subtle sweet flavour. No need for any extra sugar. To keep it really simple I mixed all ingredients with my hand blender, so no whisking.
I hope you and your family will enjoy them as much as we did in my house. No need to miss out on Pancake Tuesday, just because you are on a gluten and/or dairy free diet! If you prefer more crêpe style pancakes then these buckwheat crêpes may be what you are looking for.
Makes about 10 pancakes
3 medium sized bananas, chopped – Preferably organic
1 egg – free range, preferably organic
5 heaped tbsp brown rice flour
80 ml plant milk of your choice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder, gluten free
coconut oil, to cook pancakes in
50g dark chocolate, melted, to serve
200g fresh raspberries, to serve
Add all ingredients to you your blender and blend until smooth. Let the batter rest for about 20 min. Heat your frying pan. Add some coconut oil to the pan and then add a small soup ladle of batter. Cook on medium heat. Keep an eye on this as you need the batter to set on top before you can flip it over, but you don’t want the pancake burnt in the process. Once the batter has just set on top, flip over and cook on the other side until golden. Repeat with the next ladle of batter.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over some hot water. To serve, mash a couple of raspberries and smear out between each layer of pancakes. Drizzle the melted chocolate on top. Serve immediately, while still warm.
Happy Pancake Tuesday!