Ella’s food solution for… A post-workout rebalance

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Everyone loves the all-American PB&J sandwich and this healthier alternative allows you to indulge while actually hugely benefitting your worked muscles. It is very important to provide your muscles with nutrients after they have worked so that they can strengthen. I often plan my workouts so that I have a full meal afterwards but if this meal is going to be further than an hour away for whatever reason I will always have a snack right away to provide my body with the fuel it needs.

Peanut butter, as is the case with all nut butters, provides protein and fibre as well as providing omega-3 fatty acids but it is almond butter that provides this nutrition by the masses and per calorie, almonds offer more vitamins and minerals than any other nut which is why this is a great choice.

Instead of using jam, which has lots of added sugars and sweeteners, here I have used natural sugars by simply mashing a few raspberries and spreading them on top to give the deliciously sweet element. This adds more minerals to the snack and gives your body the sugar boost it needs after exerting itself. 

I have used a slice of soya and linseed loaf which is a brilliant source of calcium, carbs and fibre – a perfect rebalance complete.

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Ella’s food solution for…Emotional eating

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Research has shown that emotional eaters are very much affected by the texture of food not just the taste. When feeling angry, people often choose crunchy foods so I’ve put together a delicious salad which would allow you to crunch away that anger without making unhealthy choices.

I actually bought these vegetable kebabs on offer at M&S but they would also be very easy to put together yourself. Mine have butternut squash, courgette, red pepper and corn on which you can really get your teeth into!

The salad mix then contains crunchy iceberg lettuce as well as some rocket, cucumber, spring onion, tomatoes, beetroot, radish, red pepper and pine nuts. I have also included sun-dried tomatoes for their delicious flavour and moisture and some jalapeños to add a little kick.

This colourful and crunchy salad was so delicious. It’s always a good idea to keep in salad bits as they can be incorporated into lots of different variations.

Ella’s food solution for… Your sweet tooth

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Contrary to popular belief, living a healthy lifestyle does not mean sacrificing yummy biscuits and cakes. All you have to do is replace artificial sugars and flavouring with natural sugars and spices – it’s a miracle! These oat drops are made without sugar, butter or eggs and they taste amazing. With their crumbly exterior yet soft and warm interior, there’s nothing more inviting.

I tend to use cup measurements which is typically more of an American way to do things but I just find it so much easier than weighing amounts of ingredients. You can buy proper cup measurements from most large supermarkets.

To prepare for these drops of heaven, preheat your oven to 175 degrees and line a baking tray with parchment paper. You must combine 2 cups of oats with 1/2 cup of mixed nuts, 1 cup of coconut flakes, 1/2 tsp allspice, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1 cup of dried fruit (I used dried blueberries, cranberries and raisins – delicious!). In another bowl combine 3 mashed bananas with 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/4 cup coconut oil. Pour these ingredients over the dry ingredients to intermingle all flavours and consistencies. I think it’s necessary to really get your hands stuck in at this point.

I tend to simply shape the oat drops in my hands to create balls and then flatten them but you may prefer to use a utensil to ensure even drops. Bake for about 20 minutes or until just the edges become golden brown. This will allow the centre to stay soft and even cake-like. These are a must.

Ella’s food solution for… Getting your greens

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Fruit and veg provide our bodies with fantastic nourishment. There has been lots in the media lately about how beneficial these foods are to our health and the daily recommended amount has now been increased to seven portions a day. I understand how some people may find this daunting at first but it’s actually easy to incorporate many portions into each meal. It is important to remember that although fruit is a fantastic source of vitamins and minerals, it is high in sugar, therefore I would recommend eating around 2-3 portions of fruit a day. This amount can depend on what other sugars you are consuming throughout the day. On the other hand, vegetables are welcomed at any opportunity!

People do forget how delicious fruit and especially vegetables truly are. I think this is because peoples’ tastebuds become confused by highly processed foods which cause you to expect certain artificial flavours in food. By cutting down on processed produce and increasing your intake of whole foods, you will allow yourself to thoroughly indulge in the delights of these wonderful flavours and textures, also helping you to look and feel your very best!

I have heard for a while now that kale is a particularly nutritious green, so I thought it was time for me to have a go. It is a source of iron, calcium, omega 3 and while it boosts antioxidants, it lowers cholesterol, as well as balancing hormones and stimulating digestion (why on earth wasn’t I eating it before?!). By serving it with an acidic citrus food, like I have with the lime dressing, it helps the body to absorb its iron and calcium content.

This quick kale salad shows just how easy it is to incorporate nutritional greens into your meals. They are so beneficial, fresh and natural, you can just feel the goodness going down.

The green ingredients for two servings:
4 large handfuls of kale
1 tsp tahini
1tsp tamari or soy sauce
1tsp apple cider vinegar
1 lime
1 avocado
1 celery stick
a handful of diced cucumber
a handful of grapes
a handful of pumpkin seeds
a scattering of (non-green) pomegranate seeds

First, you must massage the kale leaves with the tahini, tamari, apple cider vinegar and the juice of the lime for a few minutes in order for the kale to become nice and tender and absorb the delicious flavours. After this all you need to do is combine the leaves with the rest of the nutritious chopped ingredients. I really think the combination of creamy and crunchy textures in this salad is fabulous and the balance of flavours is just perfect.

Ella’s food solution for… Brunch without the bulge

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This meal is like a healthy version of a fry up. Just as fabulously delicious without the high levels of saturated fat and salt which are a key feature of processed foods. This version is so much more fresh, energising and nutritious… so dig in!

People often associate bread with ‘bad’ food which is totally unfair. The only reason bread is sometimes given this reputation is because of the fatty and sugary spreads people tend to spread on it. Bread itself (as long as it’s not white) is a brilliant source of energy and keeps you feeling full for a long time. I have used this wonderful multi seed loaf here, also providing fibre and protein.

I have topped my toast with 2 scrambled eggs and smoked salmon making this a perfect post workout meal too. Sometimes I poach the eggs instead which also tastes amazing! The lightly fried mushrooms and tomatoes provide moisture and both contribute to your portions of veggies.

This brunch will certainly get anyone out of bed and provide a fantastic sustained level of energy. A great way to start the day.

Ella’s food solution for… Revamping your summer salad

A summer salsa salad
A summer salsa salad

This is a such a fresh and easy dish, perfect for this time of year. The softness of the egg and avocado goes with the crunch of the pepper, cucumber and spring onion to provide a great combination of textures. The stronger flavours from the beetroot and olives, work well with the hidden crisp, light base of lettuce leaves.

The brilliance of this meal came about unexpectedly when considering what I could use to introduce some moisture to the dish. I try to avoid processed sauces as they are generally laden with fat and sugar, instead I experimented with a dip I tried last week and made it into a salsa. This recipe is unbelievably simple:

6-8 cherry tomatoes,
3 spring onions,
1 chilli,
1 tbsp tarragon,
1tbsp olive oil,
the juice of 1 lemon,
a handful of pine nuts,
a handful of bulgar wheat.

First blend the tomatoes then add the rest of the ingredients except the bulgar wheat which you combine with the rest of the blended ingredients after soaking it in cold water for 10-15 mins and then top with the pine nuts to give a fabulously nutty taste and texture. I always like to finish off my salads with a sprinkling of black pepper.

Ella’s food solutions for… Revision munchies

Survival kit
Survival kit

Snacking can be a great way of helping us stay motivated, even through those long slogs in the library. The right snack can be hugely beneficial, enhancing focus and productivity, while preventing dips in blood sugar levels. I have chosen to share these 4 snacks in particular with the incentive of saving money, time and effort, while most importantly, enhancing brainpower.

Roasted chickpeas: drain and rinse a tin of chickpeas (which you can pick up for next to nothing) before putting them on a baking tray along with a small amount of olive oil and salt, then add whichever spices you choose. I included a red chilli and paprika. Put in the oven for half an hour. Done.

Fuller-for-longer falafel dip: again I have incorporated chickpeas in order to make shopping as easy as possible. Simply blend 1 tin of chickpeas, 1 garlic clove, 2 spring onions, the juice of 1 lemon and 4tbsp of extra virgin olive oil with a splash of water. I topped with a sprinkling of coriander and dill. Serve with seasonal crudités such as asparagus, as I have done here, or any of the good old classics: carrot, celery, cucumber.

Peanut butter banana: this delicious snack will provide you with a revitalising hit of sugar and fibre. Bananas are one of the very cheapest fruits and their high levels of potassium will keep you alert and on track.

Blueberries: although berries are often expensive, they are also often on offer. I wait until they are reduced then reap the benefits from this powerful superfood. Blueberries are known to enhance mood which is definitely something to consider when going through stressful times such as exams or deadlines.

Ella’s food solution for… Sugar-free summer food

Courgette cheesecake
Courgette cheesecake

This is something so different to what I’ve ever made before but it was a real hit! Sugar is addictive, the more you eat the more you want, but this cheesecake contains no sugar so will keep cravings at bay. It’s light, refreshing and zesty, a perfect welcome to the summer months ahead.

To create the cheesecake, you must grate 2 courgettes and then combine in a colander with half a teaspoon of salt and let sit for 15 minutes before pressing out as much moisture as you can. Meanwhile, combine 225g ricotta, 1/4 cup of grated parmesan, 1 chopped spring onion, 1 chopped garlic clove, 2 tablespoons of chopped dill and the zest of half a lemon, then stir in 1 large beaten egg and the courgettes. Pour this mixture into an already greased cake tin or medium sized baking dish and bake for 1 hour at 170 degrees. After this time, sprinkle 75g of crumbled feta over the top and return to the oven for another 25 minutes until the cheese has melted. 

The cake is best served at room temperature so I left it to cool completely and chose to serve it with a mixed salad. This makes it a great one to pack up for lunch the next day, wherever you may be…

Ella’s food solutions for… Living well

A whole day's nutrients
A whole day’s nutrients

Breakfast: Oats are a great way to start the day because they contain slow releasing complex carbohydrates to keep you energised and ready for whatever your morning has in store for you. They are also very cheap and healthy. You can add all sorts of goodness to your porridge, here I have my favourite mix of raisins, dried coconut and a banana to provide my body with a variety of iron, potassium and fibre.

Lunch: Early afternoon is the time to replenish the nutrients in your body and this salad contains a whole host of important ingredients. All of the components to this salad are full of vitamins and minerals while the eggs and hummus are a great source of protein, and the avocado and pine nuts incorporate good fats into this perfectly balanced and substantial meal.

Tea: This superfood salad for tea revitalises your body and will top up all the nourishment you have already given it. Salmon is one of my favourite foods and as I have mentioned before, it is of huge benefit to your health.

Snacks: Throughout the day, it’s good to eat every 2-3 hours to keep blood sugar levels stable, this will help with concentration, energy levels and all round general well-being. The best snacks for me include a handful of almonds, oatcakes and hummus or maybe some fruit. I always like to have some form of snack with me so if I get hungry I am prepared – buying food while you’re out is much more expensive and it often leads to less healthy options.

Drinks: Drinking is also a very important element to your day. Feeling thirsty can often be confused for feeling hungry and dehydration can impair health functions. I generally take a bottle of water everywhere I go and drink around 2-3 cups of tea with milk a day as well as 1-2 herbal teas. Herbal teas are a great way to relax and unwind before a peaceful night’s sleep.

Ella’s food solution for… Energy dips

Quinoa protein bars
Quinoa protein bars

These quinoa protein bars are a treasure! They are delicious, filling and so easy to make. They will provide your body with lots of energy so they are a great snack for anytime of day. This mixture of ingredients combine to make a protein-packed bar which makes it particularly effective after a workout:

1/2 c quinoa
1/2 c chia seeds
1/4 c flax seeds
1/4 c shredded coconut
1 c oats
1/2 c almonds, chopped
1/2 c dried fruit
2/3 c nut butter
2/3 c honey/maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp vanilla extract

Lots of these ingredients can be found at any big supermarket but a couple, like the chia seeds, you may need to go to a health food store for.

First, preheat the oven to 175 degrees. In a mixing bowl, you must combine the quinoa, chia, flax, coconut, oatmeal and almonds (which I put in a plastic bag and bashed with a rolling pin until broken enough – other less aggressive methods may be used). Put this mix in the oven on a baking tray for 5-10 minutes until lightly browned. Meanwhile, combine the peanut butter and honey and bring to boil before removing from the heat and stirring in the salt, cinnamon, vanilla extract and cardamom (push down on the pods to crack them open and tip out the seeds). Add the toasted ingredients and dried fruit of your choice. I used half cranberries and half blueberries which tasted delicious. Finally, pour the combined mixture into a baking tray lined with cling film and push out to each corner to create an even surface before leaving to cool then refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Once set, lift the hardened mixture out of the tray and slice into bars. Put them into a sealed container and they will last up to three weeks, still tasting just as wonderful.