Make it Happen

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At this point, I feel like I’ve solved all the perceived food problems that I can! Over the past few months I’ve tried to show you how food can help you with all sorts, no matter what lifestyle you lead. I’ve provided ideas for students with those revision munchies, as well as helping workers power through their 9-5; I’ve posted on cooking for company, as well as food prep for yourself when eating on the go; I’ve even looked at the seasons and provided both warming winter wonders like soup and curry, as well as colourful and exciting salads. I do hope you have found these ideas helpful and it always makes me so happy when people tell me they have enjoyed my recipes!

I get asked a lot by different friends and family about ‘how to be healthy’ so from here, I’d like to broaden my blog. I’ve gone over many different specific meals, so you can look back at them if you are in need of a recipe, but now I’d like to help by providing tips on living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining it. Everybody is different but I know I have found incredible benefits from eating natural whole foods which taste totally delicious and so I can share with you what works so well for me.

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Ella’s food solution for… Powering through your 9-5

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This week I started my work placement at a PR company which I am thoroughly enjoying. It is essential for me to be on point so that I can work efficiently, be focused on my tasks and come up with creative ideas. The best tactic for anyone to get their best work done is to fuel themselves with the right nutrients. This is just what I’ve done and I’ve loved my work experience and, of course, my lunch times!

When on a busy schedule, organisation is key. I always like to figure out many meals in advance so that I don’t waste food, money or time. So a brilliant tip is to use your weekend wisely because of course… a Sunday well spent brings a week of content! Take an hour on Sunday, at any point that suits, to prepare your food leisurely. I like to cook a big batch of either quinoa, brown rice or buckwheat which can then be kept in an airtight container in the fridge and be the base of my lunches for the next three days. As well as this, prepare a few portions of veg – wash, peel, grate, slice – do whatever you can and again keep these in containers in the fridge. This will make preparing your lunches so easy, it could be done while the kettle boils!

In my salad here, I have quinoa cooked with the juice of a lemon, chilli flakes and a splash of apple cider vinegar (the only alkaline forming vinegar – give it a go), along with grated carrot, steamed broccoli, sliced avocado, tomatoes, peppers and some juicy raisins and crunchy seeds. Truly delicious. Lunches like this fill me with energy and a whole host of essential vitamins and minerals along with fibre and protein. As well as my lunch, I like to make sure I’m prepared with snacks, whether it be a handful of nuts and seed, a piece of fruit or a delicious smoothie – they are all fantastic choices for keeping bloody sugar levels stable. It is this that keeps me on my toes all day, feeling energetic and ready to tackle my next challenge.

Mix and match by combining different ingredients. You can incorporate ingredients from your meal the night before. Don’t be afraid to put whatever vegetable is in your fridge into your salad. If you didn’t like it one time, have a go at cooking it a different way. Have fun experimenting and indulge in the powerful nourishment of tasty wholesome food.

Ella’s food solution for… Chip lovers

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I know chips are a big comfort to lots of people. That crisp exterior and soft interior is a texture some are not willing to sacrifice – have no fear, you don’t have to. There are chip varieties which provide much more benefit to your health and much less to the sluggish, greasy after party. 

Many restaurants have started offering sweet potato alternatives to the standard potato wedges which is of benefit to us because sweet potatoes have lots of health benefits, aiding digestion, immunity and they help to regulate bloody sugar levels. Also, they taste delicious! 

Another variation to the good old chip is butternut squash wedges. This is what I made at home with this lovely green salad of green beans, leaves, tomatoes, and sautéed courgette. Butternut squash is also beneficial to your digestive system and as well as being a good source of vitamin C, it is one of the world’s richest sources of vitamin A, contributing towards good eye health and beautiful clear skin. I baked mine with extra virgin olive oil, pepper, and rosemary until they looked like this – brown and rough on the outside and totally tender on the inside. This should take around 35-45 minutes. 

As always, it’s good to make your wedges at home where you can control the amount of oil and you can bake them in the oven. When ordering any variety of ‘chips’ out, it’s likely that they are deep fried.

Ella food solution for… Eating on the go

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Often it is when people are eating out of the house that those healthy principles can go right out the window. Sometimes it can be difficult to find the healthy option when you are in a rush. This is why it is always a great idea to prepare big dishes which can be enjoyed hot or cold and can be taken with you to university, work or on any day out.

As well as saving your health, this method will save you time and money. It is much cheaper to buy the ingredients you need to cook your own food than it is to buy prepared food and of course, you can make yours exactly to your taste. It takes just the same amount of time to prepare one lot of the same meal as it does two and then you won’t need to waste time deciding and queuing tomorrow.

This dish reminds me somewhat of a risotto yet the crunch of the seeds and the sweetness of the raisins gives it an extra something. It is so filling because of the lentils and quinoa, these are two of the very best sources of plant protein.

First, roast bite-sized cubes of your choice of vegetable (sweet potato, butternut squash, parsnip, anything you enjoy roasted) with a drizzle of olive oil and mixed herbs. Bake this for 30 minutes at 190 degrees. Meanwhile, cook 1/2 cup of quinoa with 1/3 of a cup lentils in 1 cup of water with the juice of a lime. These should take 15 minutes to cook. When the hot ingredients are ready, combine them with a grated carrot and a large handful of juicy raisins. Finally, I like to top mine with a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds which add the perfect crunch as well as all-important minerals to your body, like magnesium and zinc.

Hummus would go really well with this meal and it’s so easy to just dollop some on. Another great option, which I always enjoy, is to add a homemade dressing. It’s great to experiment with different flavours.

Ella’s food solution for… Feeling sluggish

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The food you eat is essential to the way you feel. Take charge and allow yourself to feel fantastic!

Unfortunately, even foods which contain lots of good properties may not be working their magic on you due to the way they’re cooked. Long cooking processes deplete the nutrients food contains, so the fact that many people feel lethargic, sleepy and even depressed after eating processed food is the body’s way of saying this isn’t a good way to eat. Eating fruit and vegetables raw, lightly steamed, or lightly sautéed will allow you to get the most nutrients from them as the wonderful vitamins and minerals they contain are still live and can be passed on to you. Eating food in this way, supplies you with the long-lasting energy your body needs to function at its best.

Ella’s food solution for… Sussing out smoothies

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Smoothies have been under scrutiny and have left lots of people unsure as to whether they are a healthy or unhealthy choice. The thing about smoothies is that they condense the fruit and vegetable that they contain, so fruit-only smoothies will contain very high amounts of sugar. Therefore, fruit smoothies are fine every now and then but are not a good idea to consume often.

On the other hand, smoothies containing lots of vegetables don’t negatively raise blood sugar levels and provide only fantastic fuel for your body. By blending many nutritious ingredients together, we multiply the quantities of enzymes and minerals. Research shows that people who consume more than 7 servings of fruit and veg a day have a lower risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease than those who don’t. By eating green smoothies packed full with fresh fruit and (mostly) veg, getting seven portions will be easy.

Another reason smoothies are a good idea to incorporate into your diet is because by breaking up the ingredients, your body’s digestive system doesn’t have to work as hard to break it down. This saved energy can then be used for the other necessary functions around the body, so that it is working to its optimum helping you to feel your best.

Nutritious smoothies can contain whatever variety of green vegetables you wish, along with one or two pieces of fruit which cut through the taste of all the vegetables. This provides a very healthy and tasty drink which will energise and focus you.

Ella’s food solution for… Staying happy and healthy on holiday

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You’re on holiday so first things first – relax and enjoy. It is in no way good for us to worry about what we are eating but instead we should be mindful of what we are eating.This means making food choices which are in harmony with our desire to feel fantastic on holiday. Consider how the food will make you feel. The best foods and quantities will provide you with sustained energy and a wonderfully satisfied feeling from delicious flavours and an appropriate balance of food groups.

My number one rule about healthy eating is to eat whole foods, I believe this to be the very best way to a lead a healthy lifestyle and it is an easy guideline to follow. This means avoiding processed food. In hot countries especially, this may be easier than ever as fresh fruit and veg is so flavourful, having been sourced locally in its prime environment. You get the most nutrients from these foods when eaten raw so enjoy them in their natural delicious state to get the very best from them.

Being away in a foreign place is a great opportunity to try new foods. If the food is fresh, give it a go! If you are by the coast, it is likely that there will be plenty of fresh fish, a source of omega-3 and lean protein. Here, I tried the speciality dish – shrimp risotto with a bruschetta basket of leaves accompanied by peppered yogurt.

Also, a great way to make sure you get the most pleasure from your food while on holiday is to stay active. This is actually very easy to do. Walking/hiking is such a fun way to explore a new place and get the best views. You can also cycle, swim or compose a small circuit for yourself to be done everyday or three times a week or whatever level you choose. It can be made up of stretches, weight-bearing exercises or cardio, depending what it is you’re wanting to get from it. All will help you to feel your best and also work up an appetite for the new and exciting foods that await.

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.

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.