31 days – Habits created

One month has passed since I made the positive change to improving my health.  My intention was to be sugar free (apart from sugar in vegetables and dairy products) and be meat free).  I have however, taken it a step further and not eaten any fish, eggs and virtually cut out dairy products and so for the majority of the month I have eaten a vegan diet and the remainder of the time, vegetarian.  It wasn’t really a conscious decision…it just sort of happened.

Apart from the first week of sugar detox unpleasantness, I have enjoyed the month. I have found a few things out about myself – I do have will power and an inner voice that is looking out for me!! On the odd occasion when I have been hungry between meals (I actually haven’t wanted to snack between meals very much at all), I’ve opted for a savoury snack – new found passion for oatcakes and Marmite – rather than a sweet biscuit or two … or three! I have found myself having internal dialogue – acknowledging how much better I feel and do I really want to jeopardise that feeling?! In fact, there has been a bar of chocolate in the bottom of my handbag all month – I found it the other day. 31 days ago it would have ‘shouted’ at me and been snaffled and the wrapper probably hidden! There are also biscuits, homemade cakes and puddings for my husband – i’m not interested! Although I am focusing on how the food choices make me feel, an additional benefit is that I have lost 4kg over the month. Chemo weight is finally coming off  😁 yay!

I do think about food a great deal – not in a negative way though. Instead I enjoy planning and thinking about the day’s meals, enjoy reaching a mealtime hungry and therefore really enjoy what I am eating – every rainbow mouthful – rather than just seeing food as body fuel. I have settled in to a pattern of planning the week’s main meals on a Friday, collating the shopping list from this and therefore only buying what we need. An additional plus is that we don’t have any food going to waste and the weekly food bill is reduced!

Creative food swapping is becoming easier – my cheese sauce swap has really helped cut out a lot of dairy. I did think removing cheese from my diet would be hard – not helped by many vegan cheeses tasting, in my opinion, pretty vile. However, I have found a brand that tastes good and melts well – perfect for lasagne toppings etc.  Oat milk is very tasty in tea and coffee or I drink weak black tea (thanks HS for the tip 😊) although I have cut my consumption of these drinks significantly and prefer herbal teas.  Butter is the one food I haven’t found an alternative I enjoy. Toast and butter..mmm… I don’t have it very often but thoroughly enjoy it when I do. Any really tasty alternative options out there? From a purely health point of view I think butter is better for me than a vegetable spread with lots of additives.

I have been pleasantly surprised, when I have eaten out, about the number of vegetarian and increased number of vegan options on the menus. Foods with wonderful flavours and textures.

So many people have been supportive, which is lovely, but – here comes a negative – occasionally the odd person (occasional not strange!) passes a comment such as, ‘ Should you be eating that?’ or even, ‘You can’t eat that!’ For me, my diet choices are for my health – mine. My choice; my decisions.  At the moment, I can’t imagine eating meat / fish again but…if I want to…I will. I am not going to pigeon hole my dietary choices.

A taste (pardon the pun) of the rainbow of food eaten this month:

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My next steps:  eat cake, steak and fizzy drinks.  I very much doubt it.

I will however eat fruit if I feel like it.

I will continue to plan our weekly food and buy only what we need to keep wastage low.

I will continue to enjoy every mouthful.

 

 

Cauliflower, cashew nut and mushroom curry (vegan)

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This is a really quick, easy and delicious dish served up with rice or quinoa, poppadoms and mango chutney. It involves very little preparation – a winner in my opinion!!

Serves 3-4 Cooking time 40-50 minutes

Ingredients:

300 g white mushrooms – quartered   2 tsp ground cumin

Medium cauliflower cut into small florets   1 tsp chilli powder

Large tin 400 g chopped tomatoes + 1/2 tin of water   1 tsp turmeric

Large tin 400 g chick peas   1 tsp garlic powder

Large cup of cashew nuts   1 tsp cayenne pepper

Method:

Put all the ingredients in to a large pan, cover and simmer (stirring occasionally) until the cauliflower is tender.

Creamy cashew nut sauce

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A time-saving method of making this sauce – an alternative to 2 hours to soak and then pulverize the cashew nuts to form the base of the sauce and using Marmite (for all the Marmite haters out there – I don’t think you can taste it) instead of nutritional yeast

Ingredients:

2 heaped tbsps cashew nut butter

2 tbsps plain flour (I use gf flour)

2 tsps of Marmite

750 ml Cashew milk – approx quantity – dependent on desired thickness of sauce

Method:

Put cashew butter and flour in to pan and  on to a medium heat – stir into a thick paste. Stir in the cashew milk –  a little at a time.  Add the Marmite.  Continue to stir and add milk until desired thickness is achieved. Allow the sauce to simmer but not boil.

A long week

So … last Monday at midnight I said goodbye to sugar. I also decided to switch back to a  solely vegetarian diet (during the festive period I seemed to eat more meat than I had done in the whole year) and reduce my dairy food intake.

I would like to say this week has been plain sailing for me. It hasn’t. Not eating meat / fish has not been an issue at all. However, the sugar withdrawal has been a different story. The first day was easy and lulled me in to a false sense of security. Days 2 and 3 delivered a constant headache – initially eased by increasing my water intake but this relief was only short lived. I awoke on day 4 headache free, ‘Yay!’  As the day progressed, I presumed all toxins were flushed out and sugar impact gone. Wrong. With the evening came a migraine that sent me to my bed. Day 5 – the cravings really hit. Sugar laden goodies were calling , no, shouting to me. Two choices – give in and then be cross with myself – or, distract myself and keep going.  I chose the second option.  Day 6 – no headaches and no cravings. Day 7 – all good.

Was the week worth it?

Definitely.

  • I am sleeping better
  • I am not waking up with heartburn
  • I’m eating nutrition dense not calorie dense food
  • no more sugar lows and sugar highs
  • I’m enjoying creating different flavours and cooking again – feel I have my mojo back
  • I feel full after I have eaten
  • I don’t want any of the chocolates, biscuits and cake that are in the house – not being smug- just not interested in them
  • perfected a speedy cashew Bechamel sauce! One step closer to a vegan diet.
  • (… I’ve lost 2 kg)

Onward …

 

Back on track

2018 was an eventful year! The stresses of selling our house, living in a caravan with 2 dogs, 2 cats and my husband during one of the hottest UK summers on record (many thanks to our wonderful friends for helping us) whilst we awaited the completion on the house we were buying seemed to stretch out endlessly.

This life turbulence completely tipped me upside down. As my kitchen disappeared so to my healthy food choices, love of cooking and exploration of flavours and blends disappeared. Instead, I trotted – no … galloped – in the direction of sugar laden comfort foods. Fast forward to the end of 2018 and I was a few pounds heavier, feeling very sluggish and lacking any momentum to change. I have spent the last few months mentally beating myself up for my lack of will power and weakness which has only lead to a downward spiral of self loathing followed quickly by a ‘what is the point?’ attitude as I devoured some more calorie dense / nutrient lacking morsel.

Thankfully, my inner voice has finally been heard. I am only human and to err is not a weakness. Self -care is paramount. Over the last few days, I have planned and prepared for overhauling my diet. So, as 2019 commences, the cookbooks cover my table once more, scraps of paper have ideas scribbled on them and sugar is off the menu.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year.

Cauliflower and walnut soup

It’s that time of year… when a bowl of soup is always welcome.  This recipe is a firm favourite in our household. It is one of the easiest soups to make.

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Ingredients:

1 medium cauliflower – separated into florets            2 cups of stock – vegetable / chicken

1 large onion – coarsely chopped                                    2 cups of milk

1 large handful of walnut pieces                                     2 tsps paprika

Black pepper

Method:

Put the cauliflower florets, chopped onion   and stock into a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes until soft. Add the milk, paprika, black pepper and walnuts and

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simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, blend and serve.

I serve with a sprinkling of black pepper and a dash of tabasco.

 

Intermittent Fasting

This is something that really interests me and I am going to embark on to see how it effects me. Following on from chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment I was acutely aware how my gut microbiome had been effected. I am once again having milk kefir daily and water kefir and kombucha regularly – things I wasn’t allowed to have during treatment because of their powerful probiotic powers.

There are numerous studies showing that intermittent fasting can have benefits for our bodies and brains. For me, the main reason I want to do this is to improve my gut health. One particular species of  bacteria (Akkermansia) thrive when fasting occurs and they strengthen the gut wall and reduce inflammation.

When we don’t eat for a while our bodies initiate important cellular repair processes and changes hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible. Insulin levels drop and human growth hormone increases. Studies show that intermittent fasting can reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in the body.

There seem to be 6 different popular methods and which one fits best will depend on the individual.

  1. 16/8 – fast for 16 hours a day. Generally recommended that women only fast for 14-15 hours. On each day eating is restricted to an 8-10 hour window.
  2. 5:2 – eat normally for 5 days of the week and restrict calories to 500-600 on two days a week – popularised by Dr Michael Mosley.
  3. Eat-stop-eat – do a 24 hour fast once or twice a week
  4. Alternate day fasting – either not eating every other day or restricting calories to 500-600.
  5. Warrior diet – only eat small amounts of raw vegetables and fruits during the day and then eat one huge meal at night.
  6. Spontaneous meal skipping – simply skip 1 or 2 meals a day when you don’t feel hungry.

For me, the 16/ 8 …or because I’m a woman -14/10 style of intermittent fasting is the type that I feel will fit with my lifestyle. So from now on my breakfast will really be breaking the fast 🙂  Of course, during the fasting hours drinking water/herbal tea is to be continued as normal.

Would love to read about your experiences of fasting.