Parma-ham-wrapped salmon on lentils

I’m afraid I haven’t had a chance to photograph this one yet, but it is a very delicious, nutritious and sustaining meal, great eaten alone or with friends and family.

Ingredients to serve 2:

Salmon fillets x 2
Packet of Parma or serrano ham

200g puy lentils – either Merchand Gourmet pre-cooked, or use dried from health food shops / the supermarket – they usually need boiling for around 30 minutes, but sometimes need soaking, so do check the label first.
3 tbsp fresh parsley
3 tbsp fresh basil
Juice of 1 lemon
200g spinach, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsps organic natural yoghurt

Method:

Salmon: Preheat the oven to 170degrees. Wrap the salmon in parma ham, and place on a baking tray. Bake for about 15 mins, until the flesh is cooked yet yielding inside.

Lentils: Chop the spinach, basil & parsley and set to one side. Cook dried lentils as per the instructions on the packet (sometimes they need soaking, sometimes it’s bringing to the boil, them simmering for around 30 mins). Or heat the Merchand Gourmet ones.

When cooked, keep on the heat and stir in the spinach, until it softens slightly. Then add the basil, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, salt & pepper until the mix glistens.

To serve:

Pop the lentil mix on a plate, the salmon on top, and serve with a dollop of organic natural yoghurt. Enjoy!

Nutrition info & shopping tips 

Salmon is packed full of Omega 3 fatty acids – which cannot be synthesised (made by the body), so need to be included in our diet for optimal body function. These gems may help lower the risk of coronary heart disease, cancer and arthritis, and can also aid brain function! Buy the best you can afford so that it contains the most nutrients,

Lentils are high in fibre and protein, low in fat, and are a cheap, filling, and sustaining food to keep in your store cupboard. For ultimate speedy dinners, you can buy them pre-prepared in the supermarket – Merchand Gourmet pre-cooked is the one to look out for. Alternatively, you can buy dried easily and online here: puy lentils. I buy in bulk, and if you’re looking to cut back on your weekly shopping budget, it’s a very effeficient way to shop!

Spinach (when steamed, or raw) is full of iron, antioxidants, and vitamins including b vitamins, which can be useful in preventing fatigue. Again, best bought locally when in season (it’s not currently). In November, you could replace the spinach with kale, heavenly kale for a very nutritious substitute which will also taste great.

Kids won’t eat veg? Don’t stress, just outfox them!

Secret superfood shake: Milk (whole for kids); handful frozen raspberries; 1/2 banana; 1/4 avocado; 1/4 pear; 1 kiwi fruit; 1 teaspoon local honey. Whizz up, and drink straight away.

I’m a mum who wants my children to benefit from a healthy diet to enable them to be healthy and strong. So it’s always a stinger when my eldest refuses point blank to eat anything that resemble a vegetable. He just doesn’t ‘do’ them. ‘Yuk’ is his standard response when presented with anything with even a hint of green, and orange, oh and red.

Knowing what I now know about nutrition now, it’s hard for me to stand by and let him win this one, so I’ve begun to work out ways on how I can out-smart him into eating things which are good for him. It’s a tough one. He’s sussed out my hidden vegetable tomato sauces for pasta (it was great while it lasted!) – and won’t eat anything red on anything. I try and sneak in spinach to pesto – which sometimes works unless he pulls the ‘mummy I wanted plain pasta’ line, and digs his heels in. Faced with the option of giving him said plain pasta, or being woken up through the night by a hungry child, I must admit I usually submit. But adding and whizzing up veg into ‘pestos’ and ‘plain’ sauces can be a very effective way of upping veg intake.

Carbs are no problem for him, at all – he could eat them til the cows come home. So as a rule, he doesn’t get the opportunity to eat white bread and instead gets wholemeal, rye, and sourdough – which, thankfully he loves. His pasta is for the most part wholemeal now, which he also doesn’t seem to object to.

He LOVES jam, honey, chocolate, crisps, and other heinous, sugar and salt-laden snacks.  He doesn’t have much of an opportunity to eat them on my watch! I’m about to buy a mandolin to enable me to slice potatoes and sweet potatoes, and courgettes very thinly to turn into healthier versions of crisps. In the meantime, I have realised that he will eat roasted potato peelings when I tell him he has ‘crisps’ for dinner. Win!

I also have my sights set on a dehydrator which allows you to make all kinds of delicious crispy-type snacks which are bursting with health. He will not beat me, oh no!

Looking at the good stuff he likes to eat, he will eat chicken, apple, pear, cucumber, and healthy peanut butter (£5 for a kg from Holland and Barrett / Poppy’s Pantry if you’re local to Woodbridge, and no added nasties at all). So I capitalise on this, and this is what he tends to get for dinner, breakfast, lunch. I think sometimes you just have to accept they’ll be fussy.

My favourite way of getting goodness into him is through the milkshake or smoothie. I laughed (or was it a victory cackle) inside this morning as I gave him his requested raspberry milkshake (using full fat milk for calcium, frozen berries – full of vitamin C and anti-oxidants, cheaper than fresh, and they chill the drink) knowing that I’ve also put in half a banana, 1/3 avocado (packed with protein), 1/2 pear and a kiwi fruit (yet more vitamin C). I even manage to get spinach into them sometimes which he doesn’t notice, either. Ha!

Yesterday, I invented some ultra-healthy oaty cookies with no sugar in at all, containing oats, oatmeal, and even flaxseeds. A momentary look of uncertainty crossed his face as he bit into one, then he polished off three. They get my thumbs up for a health-laden sweet treat that I also enjoy.

Knowing that my son’s getting adequate nutrition is so important to me, and I shall continue to try and outwit him. With young children, you have to be prepared to jump on any hint of healthy that they are up for, and keep trying new things without forcing it upon them. They’ll come round when they’re good and ready, and I think life’s too short to battle. Fussiness, as with many things relating to children, is for the most part only a phase, and as smart, clever parents, let’s go forth and outwit our little resistors, making it the playful game that bringing up children should be.

‘Til next time.

Sophiex

Cocoa-heaven hot drink

Evening! I can’t resist posting this on a cold, blustery night when warming the cockles is the order of the day.

If you don’t want to load up on calories or send your blood sugar into overdrive, but need a soothing, warming, delicious drink, pop a spoonful of cocoa powder (organic, ideally but not essential – and NOT one of the ready-made ‘hot-chocolate’ drinks) into a mug. Pour boiled water into the mug, then sweeten with Agave nectar if you need to.

Sip and enjoy your antioxidant-packed, low cal, yet satisfyingly chocolatey drink. It’s particularly good when you’re flagging mid-afternoon and craving something sweet but are seeking a healthier alternative!

 

 

Time for ‘me’

At this time of year there are so many bugs around, and I know that over half term I probably came into contact with about three different ones, not to mention the one that hubby was nursing whilst I was away. Safe to say, I caught one of them, and last Saturday, a mini-virus knocked me for six. And it got me thinking.

How do we protect ourselves from illness, stress and exhaustion? When is a good time to stop and take time for ‘me’? And, when we’re busy in our careers, bringing up young children, supporting older children, helping out with grandchildren, or any combination of the above, how do we stop our health and wellbeing from finding itself at the bottom of the list?

Limit your plans so they’re realistic
Last weekend, I had a late gig Friday night. Saturday I had organised to chat to my very patient exam case-study, look after the kids while hubby did decorating, catch up on some ironing, tidy the house (which is upside down as we are renovating the downstairs toilet), and cook some meals so we’re organised for the following week.

Even if I had been feeling well, perhaps I could have spread that workload over two days, and incorporated some much needed chill time for me in there. What does your weekend look like, and is there enough time for ‘me’ in there?

Aim for a healthy diet, combined with regular exercise
Granted, the magic combo can’t protect you from every bug going, but whatever your age it will certainly enable your body to function at it’s optimum meaning you will feel more vital when you’re not sick, and help your body to recover more quickly when you are.

Adequate sleep. 
Is essential to allow your body to repair and function at it’s best. With a young family, sleep can be a rare commodity. Get it while you can with early nights, or catch up naps. If you’re working, sometimes stress from work can prevent you from getting a good night – regular exercise is a great stress-buster, as well as rounding off the day with a warm bath and hunkering down in bed with a light read before lights out. Avoid Facebooking and emailing while you’re in bed as this can make it harder to ‘switch off’ and get the rest you need.

Call in support
Whether it’s friends, family, or bought-in, sometimes practical help is just a necessity to enable you to have the feet-up time you need. Grab yours where you can get it. Whether it’s a friend looking after the kids for a couple of hours while you get a massage, or a cleaner who can help tidy the house – own it, get help, and take charge.

Don’t wait until you’re at breaking point before taking time out
It isn’t good for you (note to self) to be at the end of your energy stores before resting and recharging. See below for how to ensure you’re never deplete of ‘me’ time!

Make time for ‘me’ today
This is the number one action you can take today to keep your wellbeing at the top of the list. Schedule time in to your diary as non-negotiable time for ‘me’. Ringfence it, say no to anything which might interrupt it (ok, except an emergency), and enjoy every second of it!

How will you be making time for ‘me’ this week?
I admit, I am a work-myself-into-the-ground-aholic. I work, study, look after the kids and family and matters of domesticity, look out for my friends, and then when I can take no more, I collapse.

I know that I would benefit from regularly taking my foot off the gas to reflect, and recharge. I also recognise that unless I do, I will simply end up too exhausted to be any good to anyone!

So, today, I am going to schedule regular ‘time for me’ into my diary – whether it’s a couple of hours to meet with a friend, a lie down with a good book, getting out into the garden to sweep leaves, listen to a favourite album or do just as I please.

When do you have your ‘me’ time? Do you have enough of it? If you could do with more, make the commitment today to allocate some into your diary – your body will thank you, and it will be another great step towards living the healthy and energised life you deserve.

‘Til next time,

Sophiex

 

How to be smart throughout the Festive season

Argh! Christmas is just 6 weeks away today, so on this firework night, let’s light the touchpaper and get thinking about how we can positively manage the festive season to stay feeling trim, full of energy, and looking and feeling great.

1)  Drink water.
Obvious, I know, but I also know how hard it is when the wine and cocktails are flowing to keep drinking water. To help myself out, I like drinking mine still with ice and slice of citrus, or sparkling in a cocktail glass. No-one notices once the evening’s in full flow and your body and skin are seriously going to thank you.

2) Eat dinner before you go out.
Of course, if it’s a sit-down dinner, don’t. But eating a healthy and nutritious dinner before you go out to a ‘do’ with canapes will stop you from gorging on the delicious-but-no-doubt-fried-and-full-of-fat snacks. The trick is not to then gorge on canapes as well as dinner! Trust me, I know this is hard – ask my friends, my capacity for eating catering teams out of house and home is well-known, but resist, and you’ll feel fab for it (and slightly smug).

3) Choose a treat meal/night out a week.
Whether it’s the amazing canapes here, or the fabulous dinner to be served up by your friend there, or a boozy night out with friends, choose the one event where you’re going to let your hair down and fully enjoy what’s on offer.

4) Stick to your regular exercise regime.
As much as you are able to, ringfence your workouts to ensure you’re maintaining your fitness levels to keep your energy expenditure up. Just as you get fitter with more exercise, the effects reverse when you don’t go, so keep fit by keeping going!

5) Be smart with your choices.
I think I can conclude here that you don’t have to wear a halo throughout the festive season, after all that would be too boring. But know your limits and keep your wellbeing in check by making the right choices with meals and snacks so the food you eat doesn’t sap your energy. Don’t overdo it on the booze. Drink water. Keep your body moving and energised regularly. Spend time with the people you love and who care about you, or revel in the peace of spending time solo. Be positive and kind. Say ‘no’ when you need to. Lastly, and most importantly enjoy the festive season whatever shape it takes for you!

See you soon!

Sophiex

3 quick, easy, sustaining breakfasts

Morning folks, so this morning, I thought I’d share my top 3 quick, sustaining breakfasts with you.

1. Scrambled egg & avocado wrap.
Prep/cook time: 5 minutes.

When you need a quick, delicious breakfast, this recipe will certainly fit the bill and help you start the day the right way. The reason? It’s packed with protein, good fats, vitamins and nutrients which all contribute towards your body functioning well at a cellular level. And because it contains virtually no sugar (there will be a little in the wrap), your blood glucose levels will rise slowly, energy will be released slowly, and you will stay satisfied for longer.

You will need:
2 eggs, splash of milk, seasoning
A large handful of raw, baby spinach
1 large tomato, sliced
Handful of fresh herbs if you have them – (coriander works particularly well)
1/4 avocado
1 wholegrain wrap

Whisk, then scramble the 2 eggs, milk & seasoning in a pan with coconut oil. They should be glistening when you eat them, not hard and rubbery.

Pop your wrap on a plate, put the eggs, tomato, avocado, herbs (if you have them, they’re just there to add to the yum factor) and as much spinach as you can on the wrap, wrap it and eat it.

Enjoy it! And remember to eat it slowly and appreciate it.

2. Homemade granola.
Prep time: 10 minutes, cook time: 20. This granola is best pre-prepped and stored in an airtight box so you can grab and go. I usually make up 500g, but you could double up the quantities and make up a kg for it to last longer.

Why is this breakfast healthy?

Oats are a great source of dietary fibre, which aids digestion in your body. They will also provide energy from their carbohydrate content. The seeds provide a healthy dose of Omega 6 fatty acids, which are great for brain function. The nuts are a source of protein, and in combination with the oats provide your body with the essential proteins it needs for optimum function.

The berries provide anti-oxidant qualities which help in counteracting potential damage by something called free radicals. Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food, or by environmental exposures like tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals can damage cells, and may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

You will need: 

500g jumbo oats
35g sunflower seeds
35g pumpkin seeds
2 tbsps coconut oil
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsps vanilla extract

To serve
5 Pecan/almond/hazelnuts
1 tbsp toasted coconut
Generous handful berries
Almond milk / dairy milk (but the almond milk is VERY delicious!)

Method
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F. Line 2 flat baking trays with greaseproof paper. Melt the coconut oil until it’s liquid in a pan over a gentle heat. Take it off the heat and add the ground cinnamon and vanilla extract. Stir in the oats, sunflower & pumpkin seeds until the oats are covered. Spread the mixture evenly over the 2 trays, and bake for 20 mins, checking regularly. Turn after 10 mins so you get an evenly cooked result.

Serve
With your choice of pecan, almond, or hazelnut, a tbsp of toasted coconut, a generous helping of berries – blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries are all great choices and cold almond milk.

As a variation, this is just as delicious served with other fruits and natural yoghurt.

3. Healthy peanut butter on toast.

Okay, now’s the time to ditch the peanut butters you’re used to buying, and I’ll let you into a secret. They cost a FORTUNE in comparison to a healthy substitute. Search for Meridian natural peanut butter. It contains peanuts, and that’s it. And 1KG will set you back a fiver! £5. A bargain!

And no added sugars, palm oil or other nasties you sometimes find in more commercial brands.

To manage your expectations, it does taste a little different, but this is only because you’re used to higher sugar versions. I have switched, and even my 2 & 4 year olds now readily scoff this brand. The best bit is that it’s packed with health-giving protein!

You will need:
Rye bread (you can now buy this from most supermarkets – it’s yummy)
Healthy peanut butter
A tomato, sliced
Seasoning
Spinach (optional)

 

Toast 2 slices bread, spread peanut butter (note: no butter!), arrange sliced tomatoes in abundance. Crack of black pepper and salt over the top and serve on a bed of raw baby spinach. Enjoy!

You’ll note that I rattle on about raw spinach. It’s full of nutrients, including iron, so try adding it to any meal you can.

So there you have it, three delicious, simple, and sustaining breakfasts packed with nutrients to leave you feeling full of longer lasting energy, and which contribute to your body’s optimal health.

Bon apetit!

Sophiex

Salmon with ginger & thyme butternut squash, green beans & broccoli

As my husband will testify, I have become more and more interested in the food we eat, and how it can affect our health. A few months ago, I began to experiment with ‘eating clean’ – that is, to eliminate pretty much all processed foods from our diets, and prepare meals based on loads of health-giving, nutrient-rich organic greens and veg, lean meats, oily fish, the ‘right’ fats, and wholegrain foods – complex carbohydrates with a low GI.

In combination with a new exercise regime, I found that my weight dropped, my hair & skin began to glow more, and my energy levels skyrocketed. It was almost unbelievable to see the changes, so I’ve set myself a little mission to start compiling my experiments in the kitchen, as well as things exercise-wise I’m learning and sharing it online so that you can benefit from my experience. I’m not quite sure yet where this blog is going to take us, but I hope you’ll join me for some delicious experimentations in the kitchen and a small step towards living a healthier life. It’s worth it, I guarantee.

So today, I wanted to share a quick and simple recipe, which I usually enjoy for dinner but would also be a yummy lunch too. The warming ginger & comforting thyme complement the sticky, caramelised butternut squash beautifully, and complement the soft salmon flesh and crunchy al-dente veg perfectly.

For many reasons, in all my recipes, I will be recommending that you buy the best quality ingredients you can afford, ideally local, and organic. This will help to ensure they are as nutrient-dense as they could be. The better quality soil a food is grown in, the more nutrients it will contain, and the better it will be for your body. Think about buying from your local fishmonger, or greengrocers, or maybe even a local market – there are also some great bargains to be had by buying towards the end of the day.

I also recommend steaming the veg to maintain their nutrients.

Steamed salmon with ginger and thyme butternut squash, green beans and broccoli 

8oz butternut squash, cubed, 1cm
Generous handful of fresh thyme
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 dessert spoon coconut oil (you can buy it in Holland and Barrett. Make sure you buy organic).
1 teaspoon Agave nectar (a natural, organic syrup from cactus – you can find it in Holland & Barrett)
Top and tailed green beans

Generous serving of broccoli

Method: Salmon: Take each salmon fillet and slice of lemon and wrap in it’s own large square of tin foil – secure it tightly so no air can escape and leave enough airspace space for the salmon to steam. Place in the oven and cook for 12-15 mins (I usually check at 12 mins to make sure it’s not overcooking). You’ll know it’s ready when it’s a paler pink than when raw, and yielding to the touch. Butternut squash: add the cubed butternut squash and thyme to a medium sized pan of cold water, bring to the boil, continue boiling for 2 minutes, then take out the cubes and set aside. Heat your coconut oil in a medium sized frying pan until hot, then add the thyme, butternut squash, agave nectar and ground ginger. Turn the heat down to medium-high and cook until golden and beginning to caramelise (approximately 10 minutes). Don’t touch the contents of the pan too much as you want the cubes to remain intact. Steam your veg, then serve the meal. Enjoy, taking the time to savour the flavour!

Good things come…

A few weeks back I excitedly announced the launch of the Wednesday evening Swing Me Fit class. I’m sorry to announce that it has been delayed due to circumstances beyond my control.

So hang tight, I know you’re looking forward to there being more classes soon, and so am I.

In the meantime, subscribe to our weekly newsletter which will shortly be launching, and you will be the first to know all of my latest class news. Not only that, but you’ll also be able to stay up to date with ground-breaking research, news, and products in the fitness world, and gain some great hints and tips on looking and feeling great whilst having fun! Simply email us at thefitnessboutique@yahoo.co.uk and we’ll add you.

Sophiex

Top 5 Healthy Eating Mistakes

You know the benefits of a healthy diet, but are you making mistakes that are hindering you?

1:  Low fat or no fat means low calorie / good for you

NO!

The process of removing the fat also removes most of the flavour, so to make it taste good the easiest thing is to add sugar, flavourings, flvour enhancers and other toxins.  Furthermore a no fat diet can be very detrimental to your health as we need a variety good fats and oils for our body and mind to function well.  A no fat diet can lead to all sorts of problems including depression & joint problems.

2: “No added sugar” products are better for you.

NO!

Quite the opposite, most artificial sweeteners are far more damaging for your body than sugar.  Aspartame even damages the part of your brain that controls your appetite and will power; making you crave more (and more and more)  Aspartame is also the sweetener of choice in most diet drinks. Clever thinking on the part of the manufacturers but not so great if you’re trying to loose weight and control your cravings.

3: “No artificial sweeteners” means no added sugar .

NO!

Most products labelled this way contain large amounts of  sugar.

Sugar is classed as “natural” sweetener, no matter how processed it is.

4:  Jacket Potatoes/ pasta / fruit are good weight loss diet foods

No!

Starchy carbs, (potatoes, rice, pasta) & most fruit all quickly convert to sugar while being digested.  This can be useful as an energy boost before a big race or after a hard training session; However in normal day to day life this excess sugar in your blood stream can be dangerous so the body removes it from the blood and stores it as fat; ready to burn off when we need more energy. However if we keep eating these foods without needing the energy burst, we will keep storing the excess as fat,  this can lead not only to weight gain  but also insulin sensitivity, and ultimately obesity and Diabetes.   

5: Cholesterol is bad for you

NO!

Like fat our body NEEDs cholesterol in order to function.

Like fat not all cholesterol is equal, there is good & bad fat and good & bad cholesterol, in fact the good (HDL) Cholesterol helps to get rid of the bad! (LDL)  So don’t worry about eating too many eggs or buying a special cholesterol reducing margarine.

Staying healthy doesn’t have to be a chore! Sign up to our forthcoming weekly newsletter to stay abreast of how to stay fit and healthy the easy way by emailing thefitnessboutique @ yahoo.co.uk.

Many thanks to Fay Victoria Durrant for content for this article.

Why watercress helps you to maximise your workout

Image

We all know that watercress is a superfood, but how can it help us in our quest for fitness?

According to a recent study*, eating just 85g (a small bag) two hours before you workout can help raise levels of important antioxidant vitamins in your body to limit the build up of damaging free-radicals in your DNA – in other words it helps your body to cope with the demands of exercise, and recover more quickly. 

The study found that there were no cumulative effects of eating your greens – so if you eat a bag right now and workout in a couple of hours, your body will reap the rewards. 

So whether you’re an elite athlete or simply exercising your health, go green and add some watercress into your life. 

 

 

ImageWhy not try this delicious smoothie recipe for a real boost. The recipe makes 500ml – enough for about 3 glasses:

75g watercress

3 x celery sticks with leaves

1 medium (200g) apple 

1 x 100g avocado 

Pinch of salt

Juice the watercress, celery and apple. Remove the skin and stone form the avocado. Blend the juice and avocado together until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve fresh! 

 

 

 

 

*Source: Edinburgh Napier University (2012, April 25). Leafy greens help prevent damage caused by a workout, study suggests. ScienceDaily