Category Archives: Healthy living

Kitchen essentials (2)

Essentials for a healthy kitchen

If you are transitioning to a diet that is focussed on fresh whole foods and light on packaged food, then you may find that preparing meals takes a little longer than you’re used to. This isn’t a bad thing – you know, ‘good things come to those who wait’…

I encourage my clients to consume 6-7 portions of fresh fruit and vegetables daily (at least five of those should be vegetables). Don’t panic! It is possible and you don’t have to spend your day cleaning  a juicer to achieve the target. Eating clean, doesn’t have to be hard work. However, it does help to be prepared, organised and have a few kitchen tools that make preparation work a little easier.

For the remainder of this post, I’m going to list out the items that I find indispensable in my kitchen. If you are thinking of taking your cooking to a healthier level, some of these may help.

I am not promoting products on behalf of any brands. These are items that I have tried and tested and can wholeheartedly recommend. I’ve provided links to each item for visual purposes – these link to amazon.co.uk*, but you should be able to purchase most of these at any good cook shop or department store.

So, in no particular order of preference, here we go.

Microplane Fine Grater

This little guy is great for zesting citrus fruit, finely mincing garlic or finely grating chocolate or fresh coconut. I bought mine about 7 years ago with my first London pay check as a treat to myself. If you want to get delicate flavour and texture into your sauces, dips, baking and stews, this is a wonderful tool.

Food processor with liquidising jug

If there is one thing you invest in this year, let it be a food processor. It doesn’t have to break the bank and it will save you loads of time and effort (which makes eating healthier easier). I use mine almost daily to make pesto, energy balls, banana ice-cream, nut butters etc.

There are plenty of food processors to choose from. However, I would encourage you to look into one that is at least mid-range in price. Because I use mine so much, I know that a cheaper model would succumb to ‘wear and tear’. It’s a false economy to buy any electronics on the cheap, and, let’s be honest, it’s your health we’re talking about, so invest a little. This is the version similar to the one I use, but have a look, see what’s available and what you can afford. Sites like Amazon have customer reviews which may be helpful.

Kenwood food processor

 

Food processors come with a variety of attachments. I would recommend that you get one with at least a liquidiser/blender jug and grater attachments. The liquidiser is essential for smoothies, nut milks and sauces, and with the grater, you can literally whip up a healthy salad in 10 minutes – no fuss. An added bonus is a spice grinder, but you can also purchase this separately (see below).

Of course, the daddy of all processors is the Vitamix. If you can afford one, it’s a great investment, but a decent food processor will do all the key things you need.

Stove-top steamerStove-top steamer

If you want to get the best out of your veg, steaming is the way to go. I use this stove-stop steamer. I prefer it to a plastic plug-in version and it’s extremely versatile. Use it for vegetables, steaming fish or warming up meals (as I don’t use a microwave).

Spice grinder

If you don’t have a grinder attachment with your blender, I highly advise purchasing a separate spice grinder.

I use mine mostly for grinding flax seeds. They pop up in many healthy dishes and need to be ground in order to make the omega 3 oils available for absorption. You can always buy ready-ground seeds, but making your own is more economical.

Non-toxic, non-stick pans

If you’re going to go to all the effort of preparing healthy meals, ensure that your cookware isn’t leaching toxic chemicals into your food.

Cheaper non-stick coated pans, like Teflon, are likely coated with PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene). PTFE is made from a chemical that can leach into cooking and release toxins into the air. Studies have been done to show that PTFE is not great for our health – do some research and decide for yourself. I also prefer not to use aluminum pots and pans.

There are other, non-toxic pans available on the market. I use ceramic, stainless steel or cast iron. These items are more expensive, but last much longer. I really believe that your pots and pans are a lifetime investment – if you buy good quality items they will be with you forever and have fewer ‘side effects’. I also advise buying pans that are oven-proof (very handy and less washing up!).

GreenPan

Ceramic, stainless steel and cast iron items can be pricey. So, start off with the items you use most at highest temperatures (frying, roasting etc) and replace those first. Take advantage of birthdays, wedding gifts or seasonal sales to get the most value for money.

Stick blender

If you have a liquidiser, a stick blender is technically not necessary. However, I have both and find the stick blender very useful for some tasks such as liquidising soups (in the pot), making pancakes or smaller quantities of sauces, dips and pestos.

Again, there is a spectrum of blenders available to suit your needs and budget. I have a fairly cheap version which keeps me going, but you may wish to invest in a more powerful blender.

Garlic crusher

Life is too short to chop garlic.

Besides that, crushing garlic is the best way to release the activate the compound, allicin. Allicin has been shown to have antibacterial and antiviral properties, so the more you can get the better!

Invest in a decent quality crusher to make your life easier and get the most benefit from this brilliant food.

Good quality knives Good knives

Poor quality, dull knives make preparing food a trial. On the other hand, a set of quality, sharpened knives can make food preparation a pleasure. It may sound extreme, but it is true.

Please, please invest in some good knives and look after them (i.e. don’t put them in the dishwasher). For my smaller, serrated knives, I love Victorinox – my grandmother’s are still in operation, so I can testify to the quality. These are my essential kitchen knives, but ask around for recommendations:

Victorinox Parer

Victorinox – Tomato Knife 11cm

Victorinox Chefs Knife

Thin, flat egg lifter

It may sound strange to have an egg lifter on the list of essentials, but I truly couldn’t do without mine. It must be thin, so make flipping pancakes a breeze. It should ideally be of a good quality plastic to protect your lovely pans and heat resistant to avoid the inadvertent melt when left on the side of the cooker.

This is one of my favourites:

SprouterJar sprouter

Sprouts are nutrient dense and easy to grow on a window sill. They are a great addition to your weekly diet – scattered on a salad, blended into a dip, pesto or smoothie, or eaten as a snack.

If you’re starting off, a BioSnacky is a good option. Try to source organic seeds – I use this distributor.

Good set of measuring cups / jugMeasuring cups

Getting portion sizes right is key. Having a good set of measuring cups or a well-marked jug will make things much simpler for you when preparing delicious meals.

Good quality pepper grinder Peugeot pepper grinder

Believe me, buying cheap pepper grinders is a waste of time, money and adds to our landfill problem. I recommend investing in a good quality pepper grinder, such as Peugeot. It has a lifetime guarantee on the mechanism. They are more expensive than other mills, but you will have it forever.

These also make great gifts by the way.

 

Have I missed something off that you can’t live without? Leave your suggestions in the comment box below.

 

*I belong to an affiliate programme with Amazon which rewards me when you buy a product. This helps me run and maintain the blog, but don’t feel obliged to buy through Amazon. I would be even happier if you supported your local, independent kitchen shop.

Please like & share:
Reindeer

8 ways to get through the festive season in one piece

The festive season is a wonderful time of year when we can, more or less guilt-free, indulge in regular bouts of cheerful revelry, rich food and late nights. Most of us acknowledge that this is an exceptional part of the year when we can forget about being good and pick up the pieces in January.

I personally love the festive season and look forward to it. Besides the opportunity to let your hair down and celebrate with friends, there’s all that lovely food we’ve been holding out for all year.

However, the good times can take a toll on your health. Late nights, rich food and alcohol create a heavy load for your body to process. Now, I am not going to be a killjoy and recommend you forgo the champagne and Christmas puds for elderflower cordial and tofu cheesecake. I think that the period of festivities, reconnecting with families and friends, and good home cooking, is a wonderful tonic after a year of hard work. It is important to have joy and fun in life. Sometimes that means giving in to foods that we know are not healthful.

It’s not great, but it happens. Because your lifestyle should never be ‘all or nothing’, I’ve listed out eight ways you can be kinder to your body during the festive season. These are small, yet practical things you can do to help your system stay strong whilst you make the most of a fabulous time of year!

1. Protect your liver. Everything you put in your body gets processed by the liver. The bigger the load, the more work, so keeping your liver in good shape during the festive season is important.

For many, the festive season is characterised by higher-than-average consumption of alcohol and rich food. The first thing you can do is take preventative measure to protect your liver. Think about taking a good milk thistle supplement. The active ingredient in milk thistle, silymarin has been shown to protect the liver. In addition, milk thistle can also aid digestion.

2. Get your greens (and reds and yellows!). Christmas parties and festive dinners tend to focus on carbohydrates and protein. But don’t forget to ‘eat a rainbow’. You need to vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients from fruit and vegetables to keep in good health.

Cruciferous vegetables are especially important help your liver detoxify during periods of indulgence. Broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are packed with B vitamins and a host of compounds that maximise liver function. Brightly coloured fruit and vegetables contain antioxidants that help mop up free radicals – important every day, but even more so when we have more alcohol and rich food flowing through our systems.

3. Be good at breakfast. Breakfast truly does set you up for the day. During busy times, it’s also one of the meals you have the most control over.

If you know you’ll be out and about, use breakfast as an opportunity to get in the nutrients you may not get throughout the rest of the day. Make sure to include a source of protein. This will balance your blood sugar and help prevent sugar cravings during the day. A warming bowl of oatmeal will provide you with fibre and B vitamins. Top with cinnamon, fresh berries or grated apple and sprinkle with milled seeds and ground almonds for protein (what’s more Christmassy than almond, berries and cinnamon?!). Eggs are also fabulous. They contain sulphur which helps your liver do its thing. Try an omelette with two big handfuls of spinach, and sautéed tomatoes, onions and peppers.

4. Hydrate. Water is essential to most bodily functions and it is always important to keep well hydrated. Alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate your body, so if you find yourself over-indulging during the festive season, you need to be especially vigilant in topping up your water levels!

Water helps flush out toxins and aids in the secretion of digestive juices. If you’re not getting enough, you’ll feel sluggish and will battle to manage large, hearty meals. Make sure you drink at least 1.5 litres across the day (caffeinated tea and coffee don’t count!).

5. Choose organic where you can. I am a big believer in organic foods, but I am realistic that it can be pricey. If you are going to pick specific foods to buy organic, then animal products are where you should invest.

Meat, dairy and eggs carry by-products of hormones and antibiotics used in animal farming (particularly poultry and eggs). As these items make up the bulk of most festive menus, try and buy organic if you are cooking animal products over the season – the taste and quality will be better and again, you’ll be doing your poor old liver a favour.

6. Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Eating is not cheating! Drinking on an empty stomach is a fool’s game – it takes you over the limit quicker, makes you feel worse off the next day and causes you to made bad food choices.

Alcohol often results in a rapid increase in blood glucose levels followed by a drop. When your blood sugar levels drop, you start craving food – particularly sugary, carby foods (think late night chips and kebabs). Making sure you eat before or during drinking will help avoid the blood-sugar rollercoaster, and, hopefully leave you feeling a little more in control at the end of the night.

7. Sleep. Don’t underestimate the effect a string of late nights can have on your health. Impaired sleep or sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on your physical and mental well-being.

To avoid waking up in January like a zombie, make time in your busy festive calendar to get good amounts of restorative sleep.

8. Have fun! Laughter and enjoyment are essential to good physical and emotional health. If you’re going to be partaking in the full festive experience, make sure that you’re getting all the upsides – laughter enhances the immune system and helps the body release mood-elevating endorphins.

Even better, pass the joy on. If you know of anyone feeling low over the festive season, even a small gesture can improve their well-being and it doesn’t cost much.

Season’s greetings to you all!

Need a kick-start into the new year? My FreshStart 28-day programme will be launching in January. If you want to clear out those cobwebs and start 2016 in a good place (nutritionally), this step-by-step programme will set you up! Get in touch if you would like more information.  

Please like & share: