Blog : whole food

10 small steps to make a big difference in 2018

10 small steps to make a big difference in 2018

Sugar highs and food comas this Christmas? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. With the New Year looming around the corner and tins of candies and sweets still half full under the tree, it might seem too premature to think about lifestyle overhauls and extreme fitness regimes for your New Year’s resolutions. Don’t worry! This is the New Year’s Lite version: you don’t have to reconstruct a version of your life to live every January 1! Here are 10 easy ways you can begin to make positive changes throughout 2018.

 

1. Wake Up Well

We all know that a strong morning routine really sets us up for the day. But did you know that your bedtime routine is equally important, if not moreso? This nighttime routine is called Sleep Hygiene. Resting your brain as well as avoiding certain foods and stimuli are the keys to having a successful day. Here are some practical things you can do:

  • Avoid screen time at least one hour before bed. That means no more scrolling through Facebook in bed!
  • Avoid caffeine, rich, and spicy foods before bed. These can act as stimuli as well as cause indigestion.
  • Try to get to bed at roughly the same time every night. This helps to train your body clock to drop into your sleep rhythm quickly, maximising your quality of sleep!   

 

2. Sip Smart — The Importance of Clever Hydration

First of all, we need to de-bunk the idea that 8 glasses of water each day is necessary. There’s no research to prove it, however, keeping hydrated is a serious matter. Which is why how we drink is as important as what and how much we drink.

If you gulp your water quickly, it might feel good after a workout, a salty food, or in the morning when your mouth is parched, your body is less able to absorb the gulps than if you sip. Gulping causes the water to pass through your body quickly, leaving less time for absorption. Sipping water allows your body to hydrate fully, and is less likely to give you cramps. If remembering to drink throughout the day is difficult for you, try setting alarms to remind you. Or link your hydration in with the next step!

 

3. Pause Productively

Getting the right work-to-break ratio can benefit you and your workday. Research says that for every hour you are sitting, the last 15 minutes should be a break. Get up, stretch your legs, distract your brain — even drink a few sips of water! The exercise is good for your body, and the mental break from your desk is good for your brain. Your productivity will increase and your waistline might even decrease!

 

4. Protect with Probiotics

We’ve all heard about the importance of probiotics. But it’s more than protecting yourself from embarrassing flatulence or making sure you are digesting your food well. Science has called the gut a “second brain.” The enteric nervous system in the gut communicates with the bacteria inside the gut, and 90% of these cells carry information to the brain, not from the brain. We really are what we eat: as our gut communicates to our brain, the messages from that bacteria, whether good or bad, influence our moods. Be sure to eat wholesome, natural foods and take plenty of fermented probiotics, like kefir, kombucha, or even foods like kimchi.

5. Mind Your Mind

Mindfulness was the trending hashtag of 2017, but for a very good reason! More and more, people are realising the benefits of slowing life down and appreciating the now. Mindfulness is the practice of quieting your mind and being still. Some do a very light version, others recite mantras, while others listen to a guided meditation. One easy way to get started is to clear a space and set the timer for 5-10 minutes. Either sit down or lie down, close your eyes, and listen to your breathing. Try not to think about anything in particular, just be aware of the environment around you and the sound of your own breath. If you’re struggling to focus, or feel that mantras are too hocus-pokus for you, there’s an app called HeadSpace that talks you through how to quiet down. My husband and my kids use it — I usually fall asleep!

 

6. Swap the Sweets

By now, we should all know that sugar is linked to weight gain and diabetes. But there are more nasties that lie behind the candy stripes. Here are a few more reasons to wipe the white stuff from your diet:

  • Sugar raises blood pressure, cholesterol, and risk of heart attack.
  • Sugar can impair cognitive function and reduce proteins that are necessary for memory and responsiveness. It also lowers BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which puts sugar-eaters at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
  • High-sugar diets are more likely to cause you to suffer from asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

Here is a cheeky alternative to the sweet stuff, but is equally indulgent: Healthy Dark Chocolate. It’s velvety smooth and delicious!

 

7. Keeping Up With the KCals:

So many New Year’s diet plans focus on cutting calories and opting for light alternatives. But these light alternatives are light on the health as well. Where fats and calories are slashed, sugars and additives are increased, making your “healthy” option a serving of rubbish! Why not try to focus less on cutting calories and aim to consume more nutrient-dense calories instead? If you’re cutting things like sugar out already, add a few nutrient dense foods like:

  • Leafy green vegetables (like kale, collard greens, spinach, bok choy, cabbage and romaine lettuce)
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts
  • Carrots, parsnips, asparagus, tomatoes, mushrooms, artichokes, and bell peppers
  • Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and other berries
  • Sea vegetables

 

8. Breathe Better

Here’s a test: exhale completely. Place your hands over your belly button. Take a big breath in. Does your belly button expand? Mine doesn’t. My breath stops at my diaphragm. I’m a shallow-breather and this is why that’s not a good thing:

Shallow breathing has been linked to increased anxiety and raised blood pressure, as well as preventing oxygen to reach the lowest portion of the lungs, where blood vessels that carry oxygen to the cells are found.

Deep breathing has been called the foundation of health. Here’s how to help yourself breathe better.

  • Check your posture. Make sure you are sitting or standing tall. This allows your breath to reach the lower lungs easily.
  • Breathe in slowly, relaxing your shoulders and expanding your abdomen naturally. Think of how you breath when you are almost asleep — slow, heavy, full.
  • If you are going to try mindfulness this year, deep breathing is a great technique to practice with it!

 

9. Teach an Old Dog a New Trick

This is the art of distraction: glean the benefits of learning a new hobby or skill this year! The pace of life seems to be increasing at alarming rates. Studies have shown that with the high levels intensity you might face at work, drive that stress and energy into a hobby. Not only is simple, inconsequential productivity good for your brain and emotions, it is also beneficial for your productivity at work. When we have something to distract our minds, our subconscious continues to work without the pressure of producing results in the conscious state. Ever wonder why you suddenly have the answer to a problem the next morning after a long sleep? This is the same thing. So stop living vicariously through your Pinterest boards and Netflix binges and get out there and enjoy your life!

 

10. You Do You

Lastly, Don’t sign up to a health regime or diet plan if it doesn’t work for you. Pick and choose from this list. Find your balance and make healthy changes that work for you!

Stuck for Stuffing?

Stuck for Stuffing?

I know we’re late in the game on this one, but what’s Christmas without a little bit of chaos, right? Don’t panic if you’ve already got your stuffing or dressing sorted. Stuffing is not merely a side dish for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, but a delicious addition to the stick-to-your-ribs dinners that the cold, short winter days invite. This is such an easy dish to make, and this recipe will add a special warmth to any dinner you pair with it. Whether made into a loaf or as loose stuffing, I hope you will enjoy this as much as I do!

Sweet & Savoury Stuffing
Serves 6

Ingredients

  • Rapeseed Oil, or any other oil for cooking, plus a few pats of butter
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 2 sticks of celery, finely diced
  • 2 cooked beets, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 persimmons, cut into medium slices, and then halved
  • 8 ounces cooked and peeled chestnuts, halved (or find a pack of pre-cooked, vacuum packed chestnuts)
  • 1 pound pork sausage meat
  • 8 – 10 ounces dry bread crumbs or cubes
  • ¼ – ½ dried cranberries, depending on your preference
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 ounce fresh sage, chopped finely
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 375f/190c/gas mark 5.
  2. In a large roasting tray, coat the beets and persimmons in oil, seasoning lightly with salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan. You will use this pan to eventually combine most of the ingredients, so ensure it has a high enough wall to hold it all. Brown the sausage meat, being careful to break up the meat well.
  4. Once browned, add the onions and saute until becoming translucent. Tip in the carrots and celery and saute for another 5-6 minutes.
  5. Stir in the chestnuts, sage, nutmeg, orange zest, butter, and cranberries. After mixing well, fold in the breadcrumbs. For a moister stuffing, or to make a stuffing loaf or balls, many people add a pint of stock to the stuffing at this stage.
  6. Once combined, add the stuffing mixture to the roasted beets and persimmons and stir gently until combined. Taste the stuffing mixture to ensure the seasoning is to your liking and then place the tray back into the oven, finishing off for another 25-30 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are just toasted nicely. If roasting as a loaf, bake in a loaf pan for 45 minutes or until heated thoroughly and crisped on top. Stuffing balls should take 30 minutes.

 

V/V Keto: The Night Before…

V/V Keto: The Night Before…

Tonight starts the prep for my one week vegan/vegetarian keto diet experiment. As some of you know, I follow a moderate ketogenic diet along with my husband, as it has been helpful at managing his epilepsy [Here is a journal article about the benefits of the keto diet on not only epilepsy, but many other heath conditions as well]. Although I completely love meat, I also love vegetables, beans, and grains, and could easily enjoy meat-free recipes many days of the week. Also, I think varying any diet’s intake is healthy for the body and fun for the tastebuds.

Herein lies my difficulty.

After seeing so many delicious vegan/vegetarian recipes, I’ve had to bypass them for fat-filled and [animal] protein-filled meals to fit in with our keto diet. But. I. Love. A. Challenge. So, for dinners only, I decided to try out a vegan/vegetarian keto diet for a week to see how practical it is to follow under keto specifications, and to encourage others if they are interested in keeping up a high fat-low carb lifestyle without meat. And I’m starting tomorrow…!

We’ll be making fajitas with a base of mushrooms, aubergines, paneer, and walnuts. Recipe and ingredients will be provided tomorrow — please check back in! I’m away now to eat my weight in meat!

 

 

Homemade Granola Bars

Homemade Granola Bars

I’ve had a few requests for this recipe, so here it is! Granola bars are perfect for a grab-and-go breakfast, snacks for the family, picnic treats on the go, and even as a homemade foodie gift for friends. They’re delicious, while still being deemed healthy, so it’s a win-win in my book. I have a base recipe I use and then go mad with add-ins based on cravings, requests, or usually, what we have [or don’t have] in the cupboards.

I’ve made these for breakfast for the kids, as they’ve been getting bored of eggs, toast, cereal, EVERYTHING, etc………. . These look like treats because they’re sweet and biscuit-like, but they’re packed full of fibre, vitamins, protein, and iron, so they kids are starting the day off right with a body full of nutrients!

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups oats
  • 1/2 cup seeds [If you don’t have/want seeds, you can use coconut flakes, cereal, flax, wheat germ, or any other dry ingredient.]
  • 1 cup nuts
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 ounce butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 6 1/2 ounces mixed dried fruits
  • Chocolate for the drizzle on top or chocolate chunks to add in. [Optional]

Method

  • Heat oven to gas mark 4|180*c|350f and butter a 9×9 pan.
  • Place the oats, seeds, and nuts on a baking tray and bake 10-15 minutes until toasted, stirring every few minutes. If you’re using cereal instead of|along with seeds, don’t toast them. Add them in after combining the oats with the honey a few steps later.
  • Over medium heat, melt the honey, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt until it simmers, stirring often until it starts a low simmer, then stir constantly for approximately 5 minutes. Then take it off the heat. This heating process not only combines the honey, peanut butter, and other ingredients well, but also will thicken and caramelise the sugars to help your bars stick together, so don’t over heat! Or you’ll make granola brittle.
  • Take the baking tray out of the oven and combine the toasted ingredients with the honey peanut butter mixture and stir.
  • Add in fruits, cereal, and any other add ins here.
  • Pour the blended ingredients into the buttered 9×9 pan and press it firmly into the pan. I used a sheet of baking paper on top of the mix and spread it without getting my hands sticky. Sticky, gooey hands with kids running mad around the house is not a good combination!
  • Bake for 20 minutes and let cool completely before slicing into bars.
  • These should last a week if stored properly, which means hidden away from sight in our house. These were eaten in 2 days! So much for breakfast.

For the chocolate drizzle on top, you can use this easy chocolate recipe. I used 1/4 cup of the melted chocolate to drizzle on top and set the rest as the bark per the recipe. Or you can just buy some chocolate, melt it up, and drizzle away. I won’t judge.

I hope you enjoy these as much as we did!

DIY Easter Bark

DIY Easter Bark

We are now well into three years of our 10-year whole-living health and wellness plan. Part of this plan includes cutting out processed foods, eradicating synthetic chemicals and dangerous cleaning solutions from our home, making food from scratch, incorporating healthy routines in food & exercise, AND….. No. More. Sugar.
I had a great moment with my five year-old daughter a few days ago after explaining to her the dangers of bleached foods and of sugar, specifically, as diabetes runs strong in my family. She then, by her own volition, binned the caramel square and diluted orange juice drink someone had bought for her on an afternoon out together. I was so proud! My three year-old followed suit and then wallowed in self pity and grieved over the sweet treats in the bin. Hopefully it will be a step in the right direction for him someday. It’s tough to break away from those feel-good sweet treats, especially when you’re three, let alone 33!

Sugar is so deliciously addictive! In light of the new sugar tax on drinks, and especially because it’s Easter weekend, I thought I’d share my husband’s favourite recipe: Dark Chocolate Bark. Hopefully this recipe can curb your sugar cravings and put down that [insert brand name here]’s sugar-laden, preservative-filled egg!
Now, unless you are a master chocolatier and have molds etc. lying around to makes eggs, chicks, and bunnies, a small baking sheet will suffice. [Spoiler alert: It’s called Bark because I break it up once it’s set. That’s about as creative as I can get with this stuff.] On with the recipe!

You’ll need a few things before you start:

  • A pot 1/3 filled of freshly boiled water & a glass bowl to sit snugly over the top of the pot [This is called a Bain Marie or a water bath.]
  • A whisk
  • A small baking tray. Mine is 8×10 inches.
  • Room in your refrigerator to set your tray!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cacao butter
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup coconut oil [Optional. I found this a superfluous ingredient to the outcome of the chocolate.]
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup honey
  • Any dried fruit, nuts, or other toppings you like to dress the chocolate

Method

  • In the Bain Marie, melt the cacao butter, whisking occasionally until completely melted.
  • This would be the time to add coconut oil, if you choose to use it. Melt into the cacao butter until incorporated and completely melted.
  • Add in the cocoa powder and stir until smooth.
  • Stir in the honey to taste. I prefer it sweeter, so I like 1/4 cup. My husband prefers the taste quite bitter and dark, so he only takes two tablespoons. Be careful not to add any more than 1/4 cup of honey – the consistency of the chocolate will change, making it harder to set.
  • Pour the melted chocolate into a baking tray and decorate with dried fruits and nuts. We do everything from salted peanuts and raisins to pistachios, dried strawberries, figs, seeds, mixed nuts, and goji berries.
  • Set the baking tray on an even surface in the refrigerator for approximately 30 minutes, or until set.
  • Once hardened, use a butter knife to gently break the chocolate into shards. The chocolate will begin to melt if left out of the refrigerator for too long, so either eat it up quickly or put it back in the fridge!
  • Enjoy!

You can choose to add flavours to the chocolate by adding a few drops of flavoured oils or the zest of an orange.

I’ve used a baster to divide the chocolate into a mini-muffin tin to make little chocolate buttons with fruit, nuts, and seeds. This is a bit more time consuming, but looks beautiful as a gift or for a party. Let the chocolate stand at room temperature for 3-4 minutes before popping out of the molds, bag them up, then store in the refrigerator until ready to eat. Similarly, you can dip fruits into the chocolate and set on baking paper in the fridge until set. The bitterness and smoothness of the chocolate contrasts the sweetness of the fruits perfectly!

Happy [healthy] Easter!

What’s for Lunch?

What’s for Lunch?

With busy schedules and cheap, convenient food, lunchtime can quickly become less of a meal and more of filling a need. If you aren’t able to carve out a bit of time to stop and enjoy a bite to eat, then, at the very least, I can help with inspiring some healthy, quick, and easy lunchtime options.

All of these ideas can be adapted to meat-free by substituting with legumes, pulses, and/or seeds and nuts to up your proteins to keep you energised and active until dinner time!

  1. Salad Topper
    This is the usual lunch menu Monday through Friday at our house. We sandwich a spoonful or two of this mix between fresh kale or spinach and some fresh fish and dress with cracked pepper, extra virgin olive oil [EVOO], and lemon juice.
    Twice per week, chop, grate, and shred carrots, cucumber, cooked beetroot, scallion, avocado, celery, tomatoes, bell peppers, olives, pickles, mushroom, broccoli, radish……You get the idea. Any and all veg you have on hand can be tossed into a large bowl. The key to this salad is the variety of taste, colour, and texture. Get a good mix in there, add some seeds, nuts, and even some dried or fresh fruit like oranges, apple slices, grapes, or berries. Because of the variance of what’s in the fridge, this salad is anything but monotonous. Be adventurous and treat your taste buds to a wonderful variety!
    And if you have a little extra time, try slow roasting some mushrooms, carrot batons, broccoli, red onion, garlic cloves, and pepper and add a few of those in to your salad for some complexity of flavour and texture. The onion and garlic especially become sweet and delicious – not at all sharp and pungent like when eaten raw! Roast the garlic it in its paper drizzled in oil and pop it out once cooked. It won’t stink you up like raw garlic does!
  2. Raw Bento Box
    This lunch is perfect for busy workdays, commuting, lazy weekends, lunch with friends, picnics, kids lunches….It’s pretty much perfect all the time and every where!
    Take your favourite fruit and veg and slice, dice, and chop. Compartmentalising the box looks neat and beautiful and satisfies those of us with OCD helps keep the food pieces separate so you can grab and go, or makes it perfect for sharing. Bring some boiled eggs, nuts, cheese, or charcuterie to spice things up a bit. We sometimes add in some pittas or crispbread and mash an avocado to use as a creamy spread and then top with various veggies and cheeses.
  3. Tuna Salad
    Mash an avocado with lemon juice and pepper. Chop and add in cooked beets, carrots, bell pepper, onion, celery, tomato, broccoli, edamame, coriander, chilli pepper, and mix. Top with baby sprouts and enjoy!
    Drizzle with rapeseed oil or EVOO to loosen the mixture, or add a dollop of mayonnaise if you prefer it more creamy. Substitute in a plethora of mixed beans, quinoa, and legumes for tuna to make this a meat-free lunchtime option.

These are just three of the raw lunches we rotate here. We like these because they can be made in advance, are low prep time, and are so tasty and healthy! So, even if you can’t stop and nurture your soul during the day with a time of rest while you eat, now you can eat least nourish your body in a short amount of time!

Slowing down slowly

Slowing down slowly

Life is fast, exciting, and on-demand… and we are overstressed and undernourished.

Here at Lo & Slo, we are pursuing a slow life and slow cooking….but not with a slow cooker. We’re going back to our roots, to an old fashioned way of cooking: simple, creative, nutrient-dense food..with a few feel good treats thrown in!

 

A FAMILY JOURNEY AT A FAMILY PACE                                                

We have to take it SLO. Between kids’ parties, doting friends and relatives, and the influence of modern society, we have a slow journey ahead of us to become a whole food, low stress, natural, healthy family.

 


In this media-drenched, data-rich, channel-surfing, computer-gaming age, we have lost the art of doing nothing, of shutting out the background noise and distractions, of slowing down and simply being alone with our thoughts.

Carl Honore


The pace of life feels morally dangerous to me.

Richard Ford


I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life. …and not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Henry David Thoreau


Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.

Robert Louis Stevenson