I want to start off by saying a huge thank you to everybody who read my last post and gave me such positive feedback! It was amazing for me to be able to share my thoughts, recipes and food memory with you all and to have you actually enjoy reading it! As with last week, any feedback is welcome in the comments, and please use this feature to share your own opinions on this post’s topics.
This latest post will cover a few different topics compared to last time, with more of a focus on one particular theme, as well as a regular food feature. So read on to find out more about my health-related topic of the week and a few of my favourite recent recipes!
Mind Over Matter
Since recently taking up regular yoga classes as part of my weekly fitness routine, I thought a good topic for this week’s post would be the rise of meditative and mindfulness practices in modern life, and the benefits of these on health. I was also heavily influenced by the latest episode of BBC Radio 5 Live’s ‘Fit and Fearless’ – a weekly podcast by @TheGirlGains, which addresses a number of topical issues that affect the lives of modern females. I have loved listening to this series due to the empowering stories told by the hosts (Zanna, Tally and Vic are personal trainers with personal stories related to each topic) and their guests, so if you have time it’s worth having a listen! This week’s final episode focused on mindfulness, meditation and yoga, and the benefits that engaging in these practices can give us.
Now mindfulness is a huge area in itself, and my first real exposure to the concept came during my second year of BSc Sports Science at university, where mindfulness was described as an intervention technique in the field of Sports Psychology. It was only when I attended classes such as yoga, or pilates classes that included a ‘relaxation’ element, that I really began to understand what it was all about.
So what is mindfulness?
There are many different definitions for the term out there, but I believe that mindfulness is actually an individual process, and so it means something different to each individual. To me, mindfulness involves paying a specific kind of attention to the self, and being aware of how I think, feel, and interact with the environment around me. As such, attending yoga and pilates classes gives me the chance to pay more guided attention to my body in terms of how I feel emotionally and physically. I have found this so useful as an opportunity to reflect on how my body has responded to other training sessions during the week – I know which muscle groups are responding to training and when I need to focus on recovery more. But the yoga class itself is also a recovery process for me. I always attend Friday classes, when the working and training week is almost complete, so that it gives me a chance to release stress and negative energy, as well as any niggles in my muscles or joints.
Everything about the yoga sessions calms me – the soft music, deep breathing, the sequence of movements. However when I first attended a class by my current instructor 2 years ago, I wasn’t prepared for how her passion for the practice would be so evident, and initially I found this too overwhelming. I think that this is something that deterrs a lot of people from trying yoga; people have previously thought that it was ‘only for hippies’ or was a class that girls went to as a social opportunity. Whilst the latter may be true (who doesn’t love meeting up with a friend at a fitness class for a bit of extra motivation?) – yoga is not for specific ‘types’ of people! It’s for everybody! Boy, girl, young, old, athlete, non-athlete – whoever you are, you will always be welcome at a session. Plus I would strongly recommend it for anyone due to the host of benefits it gives. Let’s take a look at a few of them:
- Improved flexibility and balance (NHS Guide To Yoga)
- Counts as strength-training, (as recommended by the UK Department of Health as part of their Physical Activity Guidelines) to aid maintenance of muscle mass with age
- Some have suggested that practicing yoga improves stress levels, cognitive function and anxiety
- I also personally find it useful as part of recovery for stretching out sore muscles and relieving tension
So why not try a class? You have absolutely nothing to lose, and if you’re anything like me, you will love having the opportunity to do something so different from your usual activities. A bonus is that you may find that your health benefits from it somewhat too! Even though there are some great video tutorials out there, to best experience all yoga has to offer, I would definitely recommend attending a class at a leisure centre or gym. This gives you the chance to ask the instructor for advice and have your technique corrected, and you could also meet new people!
If any readers would like to share their thoughts on and experiences of yoga, then please feel free to share these in the comments section.
So if any of you have had a chance to look at my Instagram page lately you will see that I have been very busy in the kitchen! I thought it was only fair that I share some of my favourite recipes from the past couple of weeks with you all. Here we have four recipes – 3 meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and 1 snack – that are simple and highly nutritious. Please head to my Instagram page to see all other recent recipes, there’s not enough room for them all in this post!
Breakfast: Homemade Granola
This is an absolutely fool-proof recipe for delicious and fresh homemade granola. I love to bake up a batch on a lazy Sunday, and it lasts for weeks in an airtight container! Share the love and give some to a friend!
- 100g jumbo oats
- 25g butter
- 2 tbsp honey/golden syrup
- Additions (anything you want to use to jazz it up – trail mix, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg desiccated coconut etc.)
- Preheat an oven to 180degC
- Melt the butter and honey/golden syrup together in a microwavable mixing bowl or saucepan
- Mix in the oats with a wooden spoon – ensure all oats are coated
- Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper
- Use your hands to make clusters by squeezing around 1 heaped tsp of the oat mixture together in your palm so that it sticks. (If the mixture is not sticking then add a little bit more honey or golden syrup)
- Lay each cluster on the pan when made, ensuring that there is enough space around each for even cooking
- Bake for 10-15mins until golden
- Leave to cool, and sprinkle your chosen additions amongst the granola clusters
- Store in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks.
I love eating this light granola with a few spoonfuls of natural yoghurt and fresh berries – it tastes so indulgent but has all the health benefits of being homemade, with no refined sugar or preservatives!
Lunch: Egg muffin
This is a really versatile and easy recipe that you can change up to your liking! Start with your egg mixture and just add in whatever you feel like! My favourite is spinach and tomato, but you could easily use peppers, meat (ham/bacon would work especially well), smoked salmon and cream cheese – absolutely anything you want!
- 2-3 medium eggs
- Your choice of chopped vegetables (for spinach and tomato muffin, I used halved cherry tomatoes, diced onion and garlic, and chopped spinach) and/or cooked meat
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
- Preheat an oven to 190degC
- Mix up the eggs in a bowl
- Add in the vegetables/meat and seasoning and mix
- Grease 2 ramekin/muffin mould using olive oil, butter or an alternative (e.g. cooking spray)
- Pour the mixture into the moulds and mix
- Sprinkle salt/pepper on top
- Bake for 15-20mins until golden and firm on top
Be careful when removing these from their moulds as the muffin may stick slightly. These can be served with a dressed side salad or on wholemeal toast/flatbread/in pitta for a light lunch option. Alternatively, I love these with baked sweet potato and salad for a more filling dinner. Either way, these are a convenient high-protein snack that can also be eaten on their own, and making up a batch of them on a weekend is an easy way to get ahead of the game and set you up for the week ahead!
Main: Sweet chilli salmon (serves 2)
This delicious chilli and lime grilled salmon takes less than 20 minutes and is packed full of goodness – omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, fibre, complex carbohydrate; you name it, it’s got it! Midweek meal sensation sorted!
- 2 salmon fillets
- 2 nests of wholewheat egg noodles
- 1/2 lime
- Bunch fresh coriander
- 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
- 1/4 red chilli
- Mixed vegetables to stir-fry – peppers, carrots, mangetout, babycorn, brocolli, chopped green cabbage etc. Just try and include as many different colours here to get a wider range of vitamins
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- Mix up a quick marinade of 1tbsp soy sauce, juice of 1/4 lime; 1/4 chopped red chilli, 1 tsp sweet chilli sauce and spoon over the salmon.
- Grill salmon fillet(s) for 10-12 minutes until the flesh is cooked through and flaky. (Cook skin-side up if you like it crispy)
- Meanwhile chop up your favourite vegetables and add to a wok/hot frying pan with 1tsp of your oil of choice (I used sesame oil for the authentic Asian flavour, but you could also use a cooking spray)
- Boil the noodles for 5-6 minutes.
- Keep stirring the vegetables to avoid over-charring
- When the salmon is cooked, drain the noodles and drizzle a 1 tsp sesame oil over.
- Place the salmon on the bed of noodles to serve.
Stir in any remaining marinade or 1 tbsp soy sauce to the vegetables and cook for a final 30 seconds. Serve alongside the salmon and noodles. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and garnish with fresh coriander leaves and a lime wedge to serve. The additional soy/sweet chilli sauce can be used as required to add more flavour
Snack time! Yoghurt-topped lemon and coconut bars (makes 6)
These were a completely experimental creation, but they work so well! Using fresh ingredients and at less than 100 calories per bar, they’re completely natural and a great source of complex carbohydrate for lasting energy, as well as fibre and protein. They would be a great post-workout snack to replenish carbohydrate stores and aid recovery, or could be eaten with fresh fruit for a deliciously different breakfast option. This recipe is vegetarian-friendly, but can be made vegan/dairy free by using coconut yoghurt, a plant-based topping of choice, or leaving them uncoated.
- 75g medjool dates
- 20g freshly grated coconut
- 65g porridge oats
- Juice and zest of 1/4 lemon
- 5g crushed peanuts.
- Topping: 2tsp natural set yoghurt, 1 tsp honey, more grated coconut and lemon zest.
- Soak the dates in hot water for 20mins then drain, saving the sweet date water for later use.
- Mash the dates, then stir in all of the other ingredients, using a few tablespoons of the date water to bring the mixture together.
- Empty the mixture into a lined tin and press into shape.
- Chill for 20mins.
- Make the topping by stirring the honey into the yoghurt (or use Greek style yoghurt with honey) and smooth it onto the set bars. Sprinkle mixed seeds and a bit more lemon zest and grated coconut on top
- Freeze the bars until the yoghurt has completely set.
- Slice and enjoy!
Simple! These no-bake bars will keep well in the fridge for 3 days, or you can keep them in the freezer for up to 2 months. Once you start snack prep, you’ll never look back!
That’s all from me for this week! I realise there’s a lot to digest from this post, but I really wanted to explore a health topic in depth, whilst still keeping the food side of things going for those who want some recipe inspiration. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading, and have an amazing week!