Are You Drinking Enough Water?

You probably already know that it’s important to drink enough water. A minimum of eight glasses of water a day is recommended. You should aim for more if it is really hot, or you are working out and sweating a lot. Getting enough water in your body will prevent you from getting dehydrated.

According to WEBMD the early signs of dehydration are increased thirst, dry mouth, sticky saliva and reduced urine output with dark yellow urine. You may also experience a lack of energy and a headache.

None of these sound very fun. I know it is hard sometimes to drink that much water; especially when sodas and coffee tempt us. However, to stay healthy and feel great, we should strive to drink those eight glasses of water a day.

Here are a few tips to help you remember to drink the water, and to make it a little more pleasant or interesting.

1. Keep a Log

This can be as simple as a little piece of paper on the fridge, or a page in your day planner. Just make a little checkmark, or dash on the piece of paper every time you drink a glass of water. The log will help you keep track of how much water you have had in any given day. You'll also be surprised how motivating it is to try to get those eight little checkmarks on there every day. Another idea would be to use little stickers instead, or even find an app for your phone.

2. Add Some Lemon Juice

I tend to get bored with drinking just water after a few days. Change things up and add a little flavor by adding a teaspoon or less of lemon to your water. You can also try some other fruit juices. Just make sure you are still drinking mainly water. Just a splash of juice should be enough to make things interesting and give the water some flavor without adding a lot of sugar and calories.

3. Try Some Club Soda

If you are craving the fizz of a soda, try some Club Soda. Most brands have a little too much fizz for me. I end up watering them down with – guess what – water. If you want to get really fancy, check your local grocery store for flavored club sodas. Alternatively, you can also add a splash of fruit juice to your watered down club soda.

4. Drink Some Water When You Feel Hungry

Unfortunately many of us have become so out of tune with our bodies that we feel hungry when we are actually thirsty. If you feel hungry, try drinking a glass of water first. You may just be thirsty.

5. Carry A Water Bottle

It’s much easier to drink water when you have it readily available. Carry a bottle of water around with you in the car, at work, while running errands, in the yard, and even while you are working around the house. You'll be sipping away the water without even noticing it.

6. Drink More If You Are Working Out

We already touched on this, but it bears repeating. Make sure you drink a few extra glasses of water if you work out, or if you spend some time outside while it’s hot. Your body uses and needs more water when it sweats a lot. So don't forget to fill back up on water during and after your exercise.

Just pay attention to how much you drink and implement some of these ideas if you don't get the recommended eight glasses of water a day. Your body will thank you for it in the long run.

7 Reasons Why You Should Be Using Coconut Oil

It is a common misconception that coconut oil is bad for you. People all over the world are experiencing the healthy benefits of using coconut oil. It is actually one of the healthiest oils you can consume. Here are the top seven reasons why you should use coconut oil as an alternative to other common cooking oils.

1. Coconut oil doesn't turn to fat in your body!

Unlike many other common oils, like soy (vegetable) and corn, coconut oil won't make you fat. Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which are an easy fuel for the body to burn, without turning to fat. Most other cooking oils and fats contain long-chain triglycerides (LCT). LCT's are usually stored as fat. Since coconut oil is a MCT, it is more easily absorbed and converted to energy quicker.

People in the tropics have relied on coconuts as a traditional staple in their diet for centuries. They consume large amounts of coconut oil every day. Instead of getting fatter, it helps them stay healthy, lean and trim. When they switch from coconut oil to our modern oils, they develop obesity and the health problems that our modern society faces.

Some other people who have known this truth for a long time are people who are in the animal feed business. When livestock are fed vegetable oils, they put on weight and produce more fatty meat. When they are fed coconut oil, they become very lean.

2. Coconut oil increases your metabolism!

Not only does coconut oil convert to energy quicker in your body, it increases your metabolism, which promotes weight loss. Because it boosts your metabolism, it helps your body burn fat more effectively.

Coconut oil may triple your calorie burn. Since coconut oil is a MCT, it is converted to energy so quickly that it creates a lot of heat. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, MCT's burn three times more calories for six hours after a meal than LCT's.

The February 15, 2005 issue of Woman's World magazine stated that coconut oil is the "underground high-metabolism secret."

This is great news for people who have thyroid problems, since coconut oil improves sluggish thyroids by stimulating the production of extra thyroid hormones. Most other common oils, like vegetable (soy) and corn have been shown to inhibit thyroid function.

3. Coconut oil has omega 3 fatty acids!

Most cooking oils contain omega 6 fatty acids, something we get way too much of in the United States. Our omega 6 to omega 3 ratio should be 1:1 but it is more like 50:1. We need to drastically cut back our omega 6 oils and consume much more omega 3 oils to be healthy. And coconut oil is filled with these healthy omega 3 fatty acids.

4. Coconut oil gives you energy!

Because of the healthy omega 3 fatty acids and the fact that it increases the metabolism, most people that switch to coconut oil feel a burst of added energy in their daily life.

This is because coconut oil is nature’s richest source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT's), which increase metabolic rates and lead to weight loss. MCT's promote thermogenesis, which increases the body's metabolism, producing energy.

This is because coconut oil is nature’s richest source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT's), which increase metabolic rates and lead to weight loss. MCT's promote thermogenesis, which increases the body's metabolism, producing energy. Many people with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia have found that adding coconut and coconut oil to their diet was helpful to them.

5. One of the best things you can use on your skin and hair is coconut oil!

Coconut oil one of the best things you can apply directly on your skin and hair. It gives temporary relief to skin problems like rashes. It aids in healing and restoring skin to a younger appearance. It has also been known to help with people who suffer from yeast infections in the skin, as well as many other skin problems.

Not only does is soften and smooth your skin, coconut oil has antioxidant properties that protect the skin from free radical damage. Coconut oil makes excellent massage oil too.

6. Coconut oil has healthy benefits that most other oils do not!

Evidence is mounting that coconut oil has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and antiviral effects when both consumed and used topically on the skin.

Most oils oxidize and turn rancid very quickly causing free radical damage in our bodies. Coconut oil is not easily oxidized and does not cause harmful free radical damage like polyunsaturated vegetable oils. Free radical damage is thought to be responsible for many ailments in our body from arthritis to increased susceptibility to cancers.

Coconut oil also helps our bodies absorb other nutrients more effectively, such as Vitamin E.

7. Coconut oil is one of the best oils you can use for cooking!

It has a higher smoke point than olive oil, which means it can take higher temperatures better. There are several healthy omega 3 oils we can choose to consume, such as flax and olive oil, but they don't do well under the high heat we use for cooking. Coconut oil can be used in higher cooking temperatures.

It is harder for coconut oil to go rancid, unlike other cooking oils, which are usually rancid long before you even bring them home. Rancid oils cause free radical damage in the body, which is a leading cause of cancer. Coconut oil is stable for over a year at room temperature.

Because of the misinformation we have been given for years, we have lost out on the healthy benefits that coconut oil has given the people of the tropics for centuries. But now it has been rediscovered! Coconut oil is so effective, it won't be long before we see coconut oil supplements promoted, but you can get the jump on the popular crowd and start consuming and cooking with coconut oil today!

Are you sure that’s healthy?

We should all be eating healthily. Obviously treating ourselves is nice, but our focus should be on giving our body everything it needs in the best way possible. But is the “healthy” food that you’re picking up in the supermarket really as healthy as you think? Here are a few products that you should avoid or cut down on:

ITEMS THAT SAY ‘DIET’ OR ‘LIGHT’ ON THE PACKAGING

Items that pop up in the shops that are labelled as ‘diet’ can seem enticing, especially if we’re on a diet and we want to treat ourselves but don’t want to feel guilty about it. But have you ever looked at the ingredients for some of these products? Do you know what everything is? Instead of the normal item containing sugar, the ‘light’ version will be made from artificial products and other chemicals that aren’t really that great for us. Let’s take diet lemonade for example. Diet lemonade doesn’t have all the sugars that normal lemonade does, but the sugar will have been replaced by artificial sweeteners and chemical flavourings, so it tastes like the original. When you break down what is in diet products, it’s scary, and probably best to stick to a smaller amount of the original or skip it all together.

PRE-PREPARED FOODS

Ready meals and other foods that are all sorted for us make life so much easier, but they can often be full of ingredients no one has heard of before. Companies use flavour enhancers, cheap ingredients, preservatives, and all sorts of chemicals to add to the shelf-life of these foods. Always read the label before buying anything, and if you’re unsure on any of the ingredients, internet search them or put it back. With the time it takes to find something, you could’ve started making something a lot healthier anyway.

FRUIT JUICES

This probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but fruit juices contain so much sugar. Most juices do contain fruit, but many that line the supermarket shelves just contain chemicals that taste like fruit, so you’re basically drinking fruit-flavoured sugar water. That’s crazy! Even juices that are 100% fruit contain a lot of sugar from the fruit itself and the fiber that is great has been taken out. Treat fruit juices like fizzy drinks. They’re nice for a treat but stick to water.

SALAD DRESSINGS

Having a salad is great, and a great healthy option to go for. However, salads and vegetable dishes can be made unhealthy with on simple step of adding a salad dressing or sauce. So many dressings are loaded with sugar, vegetable oil, trans fats and a lot of artificial chemicals. By adding a dressing to your salad, you make it an unhealthy meal and might not get all the benefits that you would’ve done. Make sure to check the ingredients of whatever salad dressing you use, or even make your own. It’s super simple to do with items that you will already have.

CEREALS AND CEREAL BARS

Many cereal boxes boast that the product inside is ‘low in fat’ or has ‘low grain’, however when you look at the ingredients list, a lot of what’s listed is refined grains, sugar and artificial chemicals. So many people feel that they are getting a great product, but with what’s inside cereal, it’s scary to think about what we’re actually eating. Leading into cereal bars, these are also full of sugars and are often covered with chocolate or contain sugary pieces to make the bar look more appealing. Always look and think about what you’re buying, especially if you are getting cereal bars to eat after a workout or even to put in your children’s lunchboxes.

FRUITS AND VEGETABLES FROM THE SUPERMARKET

Finally, let’s look at someone hardly anyone would think about. Obviously, fruits and vegetables are the healthiest things you can eat, however produce can easily sit out in boxes or on shelves for weeks after it has been harvested. In this time, nutrients can deplete, meaning they are not as good for you as the day they were picked. A way around this is to pick your own fruit which can easily be done this time of year, or shop at farmers markets where products are fresh and organic, meaning they are better tasting and better for you.

You’re probably thinking that you’re a bit stuck after reading this, but you shouldn’t. Everything eaten in excess is unhealthy, but if you think about it, look at the ingredients, and really put some effort into what you’re doing, you will be eating healthily. The truly healthy foods are the ones that don’t need to claim that they’re healthy, and the real foods don’t need an ingredient list because the real food is the ingredient. Next time you go shopping, look before you buy, you will thank yourself for it.

Healthy Snacking Options

We all have moments during the week when food seems to be the right answer. The only answer. We’re told that snacking isn’t healthy, but surely, it’s unhealthy to leave our bodies empty. Our bodies know what they want, and if that means a quick snack mid-afternoon, what’s so wrong with that?
Go on, treat yourself to something. But what makes snacking unhealthy is when you eat too much or something that doesn’t benefit your body whatsoever. A chocolate bar or slice of cake may look and sound tempting, but the sugar rush won’t last long, and you’ll be wanting to snack again pretty soon. Choose something a little healthier and something that will keep you full until your next meal.

Here is a list of great snacks you can keep in your bag or desk at work to help you get through the day. Obviously, we don’t suggest you eat a whole packet of the foods to keep you going!

Seeds and Nuts

These are easy to store and carry around with you for an easy snack as they can be kept in a cupboard or draw for weeks. Nuts and seeds are great sources of proteins and vitamins so are a delicious option for keeping you full. We recommend walnuts, cashews, pistachios and almonds but of course you can have a mix or buy a bag of a certain kind and keep them for when you’re in times of need.

Fresh and Dried Fruit

If your sweet tooth needs to be satisfied, fruits are a great way to do that. Whether you choose to pick up an apple, banana, orange, or go for a pack of dried fruits that can be kept in your office desk for the week, you can’t go wrong with fruit. Delicious dried fruit options are apricots and mango pieces as they are sweet and refreshing. Berries are also a great choice, especially if you normally snack on sweets and are looking to replace those.

Cereal/Protein Bars

If you like biscuits or want a snack that feels a little more substantial, healthy bars are the way forward. Whether you go with cereal, flapjack, protein bars, or even make your own, they are a great healthy snacking alternative to quickly fill you up. Just make sure to watch out for bars with a lot of sugar in, or ones that are dipped in chocolate.

Chopped Vegetables

Sometimes you need a snack that’s crunchy and refreshing, and veggies are great for that! Quickly prepare a bag of chopped peppers, celery and cucumber sticks before you come to work. They are great for munching on and can quickly fill you up. Another option is cherry tomatoes which are just as yummy and can be added to your veggie mix or taken on their own! Vegetables are so good for us, and snacking on them is an easy way to fit in your 5 a day!

Hopefully this list inspires you to rethink your snacking habits and pushes you to choose healthier options. Let us know if you have any other suggestions for the healthy snacking list!

Remember to go with the healthier option! Happy snacking!

Should I be Counting my Macros?

In a recent article where we looked at building body muscle, we touched on macronutrients and how using the macro system when eating can be really effective for your overall fitness. Today, we’re going to be looking at what macronutrients are, why you should choose to follow the diet, and how you can easily calculate your daily allowances without all the fuss of calories.

What are Macronutrients?

Macronutrients, macros for short, are protein, fats, and carbohydrates. To keep your body healthy and energised, you need to eat the right amount of each of these macro groups every day. Carbohydrates are a staple in anyone’s diet, especially in the fitness world. They are a great energy source and can keep you full and ready to go for long amounts of time, which makes them great to have before a marathon or workout, as the energy is slow release. Protein also provides you with energy, but this macronutrient is needed mainly to help your immune system function properly, and power your nervous system. When exercising, caring for the different parts of your body is so important, and protein is great for helping with that. Finally, fats are brilliant for recovering after a workout, and building muscle in your body. Fats can build up if you eat them and don’t do something to turn them into muscle however, so make sure you eat these in moderation and that you consume less on days you choose to rest.

Why Should You Use the Macro Diet?

Diets can feel restrictive, and let’s face it, they aren’t fun at all. You feel like you’re missing out, especially if everyone around you is indulging in food. This diet is easier than counting calories, and as you can eat whatever you want, it’s less restrictive. Simply, if what you’re eating isn’t going over your set macronutrient amount, you can have it. No food group is off limits, only if it takes you past your daily allowance.

How to Calculate Macronutrients

There are a few ways to determine your daily macro allowances, but we will just show you just two here. The first simply splits your daily calorie intake into sections for each macro group. The most common split is to allocate 40% of your daily calories to carbohydrates, 40% to protein, and 20% to fats. From here you can work out how many calories you would normally consume depending on your day (if you choose to workout or not) and then you can work out the amount grams per group. For example, if you aim to have around 2000 calories per day (again, this can change if you are training that day or having a rest day), and choose to split it using the 40:40:20 ratio suggestion above, these would be the calculations you use to work out your carbohydrate allowance:

  • 40% of your calories will be taken up by carbs.
  • 2000 (daily calories) x 0.4 (calorie percentage) = 800 calories.
  • Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram, so 800 ÷ 4 = 200.
  • This means your daily carb allowance is 200 grams in total.
  • You can then repeat this process to workout your protein and fats targets.

An alternative to this method is to use a macronutrient calculator to find accurate daily intakes of each macro dependent on your daily exercise and current body weight. Our calculator of choice is the My Fitness Pal app.

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We touched on this app in the muscle gain article. You simply type in your details, and it gives you percentages based on you and your lifestyle, rather than calories. This is an easier option, and great for tracking your food, if you don’t want to do the maths yourself.

Hopefully this article lets you see an alternative to counting calories each day. We hope you’re able to understand macronutrients and how following this method allows you to be freer in how you eat, and still see results.

Have macros worked for you?

How BAD is Easter Chocolate?

In just over a week, people will be hunting for and eating so much chocolate. Easter is only a little way away, and just because you’re trying to stay healthy, doesn’t mean you have to forego the traditional activities and the tonnes of chocolate. We have a list of some classic Easter treats, and have looked at the calories of each so you don’t have to worry on Easter Sunday, you can enjoy the fun, and know ahead of time what are the best choices to make!

Cadbury's Mini Eggs

Firstly, let’s look at a national favourite: Cadbury’s Mini Eggs. Mini Eggs are solid milk chocolates, shaped like eggs, coated in a hard candy shell. They typically come in 90gram bags but can also be found in tubes and larger bags, if you choose to treat yourself. We won’t judge! There are, on average, 24 mini eggs inside each 90g packet, and if you choose to eat 9 eggs/30grams worth of the eggs, you will consume 148 calories. This doesn’t seem a lot, but if you were to eat the whole 90g packet, you would consume 446 calories, which is quite a jump.

Lindt Chocolate Bunny

Another Easter classic is the Lindt chocolate bunny. It was first created in 1952 and has been a large part of Easter celebrations ever since, especially with it’s iconic red ribbon and golden bell. You can find these in a range of sizes, but we decided to look at the classic 100grams size. If you ate the whole thing (why not?), you would consume 550 calories. This is about a quarter of a woman’s daily estimate, but everyone is different, and this may seem tiny to someone quite young. If you did choose this treat, our recommendation is to eat it over a few days.

Cadbury Creme Egg

Next, another classic treat, the Cadbury Creme Egg! This is a thick chocolate shaped egg, filled with white and orange fondant which mimics the insides of a real egg. They were first made in 1923, and since, have been the bestselling confectionery between New Year’s Day and Easter in the UK. Each egg weighs 40grams, and if you ate the whole thing, you would consume 177 calories. Comparing this item to the others, if you ate 100grams worth, it would total 440 calories. Easter treat’s calories quickly mount up if you let yourself eat a lot.

MaltEaster Bunnies

MaltEaster Bunnies are up next and are one of the most recent Easter treats to come about. They were first released in 2010, and mini versions have since been released. As you are probably aware, they are part of the ‘Malteser’ family, and are a great seasonal treat. The regular bunnies weigh 29grams, so quite a small treat compared to the Lindt bunnies, but if you ate one, you would still consume a similar number of calories. One bunny totals 156 calories, but to compare to the Lindt bunny, if you ate 100grams worth, you would consume 539 calories, only 11 calories difference.

Kinder Eggs

And the final chocolate treats we’re going to look at is available all year round but fits perfectly with the other chocolates available during this time of year. Kinder Eggs were first produced in 1974 and have been one of children’s favourites ever since. Weighing only 20grams, it is the smallest treat, and has the smallest number of calories at 110 kcals. To compare to the others, if you ate 100grams worth, you would consume 552 kcals.

So, to compare each treat fairly, let’s look at how many calories you would consume if you ate 100grams worth of each:

Cadbury Mini Eggs - 495kcals

Lindt chocolate bunny - 550kcals

Cadbury Creme Eggs - 440kcals

MaltEaster Bunnies - 539kcals

Kinder Eggs - 552kcals

As we can see here, if you want to be able to eat a few chocolates over Easter weekend, the WINNER is Cadbury’s Creme Eggs, as they contain less calories in 100gram portions. However, if you only want to nibble on one or two items, go for a single Kinder Egg, as they have less calories (110 kcals) overall, and you get a toy at the end!

Have an egg-celent Easter!

The Importance Of A Good Breakfast

The early bird catches the worm.
Eat breakfast as a king, lunch as a merchant and supper as a beggar.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Ok, we get it. Breakfast is important. But why?

After sleeping for 7 to 9 hours, your body has basically been fasting. You need to eat in the morning to essentially ‘break the fast’, which gives breakfast its name. Without food in the morning, you are effectively a car with no petrol. You are empty, and need to fill up.

According to nutritionists, breakfast should be eaten between 1 to 2 hours after waking, and should be able to provide 20%-35% of your daily calorie intake. That seems a lot, but breakfast really helps to kick start your day, and keep your energy high until lunchtime. Traditional breakfast choices such as cereal contain iron, a good source of fibre, vitamin B, and so much more, helping your body refill after rest.

It’s essential to eat breakfast if you are looking at weight loss, as filling up on healthy foods in the morning, stops you from reaching for fatty and sugary foods later in the day. Research shows that people who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight, so it’s a no brainer for health and fitness reasons to make sure to eat something each morning.

However, if you don't always fancy breakfast, what then? Try and drink some water or fresh fruit juice, just so your body can begin to wake up and restore levels of things you may have lost whilst sleeping. Your body may then crave something more substantial, so try toast, cereal, or a bowl of fruit. Even if you’re not hungry, it’s important to give your body something.

It has also been proven that eating breakfast can restore glucose levels, which help the brain to function, lowers stress, and makes us happier for the upcoming day. Therefore, it’s important for children to eat breakfast before school, so that they are able to retain information better as well as improve attention spans. So, eating breakfast really is important, especially if your plan is to work out or do something that will use lots of your energy.

What do you eat for breakfast to keep you full until lunch?

The Benefits of Eating Fish

As everyone should know, fish is an important part of a healthy diet. Whether you are looking at eating better for your body, or looking to continue your workout even outside of the gym, fish is a staple food in a fitness conscious diet, and here’s why:

Fish Lowers Your Risk of Heart Disease

When working out, it’s important to focus on your insides, as well as what your body looks like on the outside. As fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, it’s brilliant for protecting your heart and reducing inflammation. If you look after your heart, it will look after you. Omega-3 acids are also essential for your organs and cells to work properly.

Fish Is A Brilliant Source of Vitamin D

If you’re really focusing on getting into shape and want to be in the gym as often as you can, make sure you’re eating fish to make sure your body is getting enough Vitamin D. This is important for keeping your bones healthy and strong, as well as keeping your body strong during long resistance training sessions. Being in the gym is important, but resting your body is too, or you won’t see results. Vitamin D aids sleep which will help your body to rest and repair after working out, and to keep your body as healthy as it can be.

Fish Speeds Up Your Metabolism

As you may know, having a high metabolism helps break down your food even faster when working out, helping with weight loss. Like mentioned, fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have a positive effect on your metabolism, helping you get closer to your weight loss goal.

Fish Is A Great Source of Vitamin B12

Your body needs vitamin B12 to function at its best. It is a nutrient that helps the blood cells and the nervous system stay healthy and create DNA. Vitamin B12 also aids in the prevention of anaemia, helping your body not feel so weak and tired, and overall assisting your fitness plans.

Fish Helps Injury Recovery

Even though the gym and being sporty in your life style can really help your body, it can also be dangerous through accidents and if your body gets hurt. Again, omega-3 fatty acids in fish are brilliant for aiding muscle regeneration, and vitamin D in fish aids with recovery also.

So, as you can probably understand, fish is a superfood in the fitness world. Eaten in proportion, it can really do the world of good for your health, and help you on your fitness journey. To group together as many of these points as we can, and to recommend which fish are best to introduce into your healthy diet, we looked at the fish available at a local fishmonger, Parkers of Stafford. Parkers stocks high quality fish and game, and the staff are friendly and knowledgeable, if you wanted to gain some more information. You can find out more at: https://www.facebook.com/parkersofstafford

Source of Vitamin B12 – Salmon and Trout

Source of Calcium to Aid Healthy Bones - Sardines

By having 2 servings a week, these fish can reduce the risk of heart disease by 36% - Herring, Mackerel, and Anchovies

Hopefully you’re able to add fish to your shopping list and get your healthy eating on the right track.

A healthy guide to surviving Christmas!

We are now fully into the Christmas season. The shops are stocked with rolls of wrapping paper, you can’t escape the cheesy music, and I am patiently waiting for the Doctor Who Christmas Special. One thing however that worries me about this time of year is the food. You can’t go anywhere without seeing: build your own gingerbread house kits, mince pies, selection boxes, fancy cheeses, and chocolate Christmas tree decorations. I want to continue my healthy eating, but it is all so tempting.

It’s Christmas, of course I am going to treat myself, but I have come up with a few hacks and rules to keep me on track, and so I don’t end up looking like a Christmas Pudding!

Plan ahead

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November and December can be hectic if you allow them to be, and it’s sometimes easier (and cheaper!) to buy a selection box, rather than a salad. By making a food plan at the beginning of each week, you can organise what you need to buy (saving food and money in the long run), and even meal prep for the week so you don’t have to worry about making a sandwich with whatever is in the fridge 2 minutes before you have to leave.

Make sure you also plan for overeating later in the day and calories been consumed in drinks in the evening. Consider intermittent fasting and pushing back your “break-fast” to early or mid afternoon. This allows you to indulge with your friends and socialise later in the afternoon and evening. Even if you have nothing planned for the evening be prepared for something to pop up. Things ALWAYS pop up over the holidays. Be sure you fill yourself up with healthy food before you do meet Dave in The Swan though as you will probably end up in Slices ordering a large pizza later in the night if you don’t.

Adapt your workouts

Be prepared to be unconventional

Sticking to your current and normal workout routine is going to be close to an impossible task so be prepared to made adaptations. If you can't make it to the gym for whatever reason don’t write off the day, simply change it up and do some exercise at home. Again this comes down to planning. Plan an emergency home workout that you know you can do at home. Make it short and sweet so things like our “Jemma's HIIT workout”, which can be done anywhere are perfect. If you have some heavy objects lying around try supersetting the main lifts that you do in the gym to create a short but intense workout you can get done and feel better about the rest of the day.

Don't slip into the "all-in" mentality

STOP!

Many of us fall victim to this. Eating a block of chocolate, eating a bit more then deciding that because you’ve already eaten half of it it’s going to be a bad day so you may as well finish it. This mentality is very dangerous! You will often then over indulge on other things which you will later regret. Just because you’ve eaten too much chocolate already doesn’t mean you should finish the rest. Just stop! Think about why you’re eating it. Is it due to hunger? Then eat something with some more nutritional value. Bored? Get up and do something to take your mind off it. Staying hydrated is both great for your body but also your mind making you feel less hungry.

Don't stock up

Stay strong in the supermarket!

Easier said than done but being vigilant in the supermarket can make things a lot easier for you when you’re at home. Write your shopping list before you go shopping and then don’t be distracted by the Christmas music and aisles of chocolate and luxury cheeses. If you buy these thinking you ‘may’ use them for when guests come round then you’re making things much harder for yourself throughout the holidays. Having these snacks around the house means that when you’re ‘hungry’(bored) you will start eating them. If they’re not there then you won’t crumble during your moment of weakness!

It's okay to treat yourself

Don't deprive

As mentioned it’s okay to indulge yourself over the holidays. That’s what they are for. It’s important not to deprive yourself because this will lead to breaking your routine and binge eating. You need to be healthy both mentally and physically. If you eat a cheeky mince pie then just make a mental note and then adjust your eating for the rest of the day accordingly.

Remember it’s Christmas! A time to see your family and friends, a time to be thankful, a time to treat your loved ones. Treat yourself, but surely you’re treating yourself more if you think before you eat!

Seasonal grub: Pumpkins and Squash

Pumpkins and winter squash are one of the most colourful and versatile autumn harvest time crops. There’s nothing much more cheerful than a display of pumpkins and squash in a multitude of sizes, shapes and colours. They’re relatively easy to grow and this is a good way of tasting unusual squashes that aren’t readily available in stores. They can be stored in a cool dark place for several months before eating. However, if crowing your own crops isn’t your thing there are several varieties that are regularly stocked in our supermarkets and grocery shops.

They are officially classed as vegetables, but are also delicious eaten in sweet recipes.

Pumpkins and squash are thought to have originated in South America, but they weren’t the round orange type we think of when we think of Hallowe’en, they were a more elongated shape. The Native Americans were cultivating pumpkins and squash long before the European settlers arrived. The natives introduced this unusual crop to the pilgrims which meant they had a nutritious food source throughout the winter, thus saving many lives and quickly became a staple food for the new settlers’ Thanksgiving celebration.

Not only are Pumpkins and Squash delicious they are also very good for you. They are low in calories and high in fibre. They are high in beta-carotene which is a valuable antioxidant, and doctors believe a diet rich in beta-carotene can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

As well as eating the flesh of pumpkins and squash the seeds are also delicious toasted and are high in protein, iron and the B vitamins.

Pumpkin pie is probably the recipe that springs to mind when thinking out pumpkins and squash, but equally as good are recipes such as pumpkin or squash pancakes, roasted squash soup, squash and root vegetable curry or pumpkin cakes. Chunks of squash or pumpkin (with the seeds scraped out and reserved for roasting later) skin on, make a delicious addition to the British Sunday roast, just pop them in the roasting tray with your roast potatoes. I’ve included below my own favourite pumpkin/squash recipe, a simple but tasty risotto. Why not treat yourself this Autumn and experiment with these colourful fruits of the harvest?

Pumpkin or Squash Risotto

Ingredients

570ml/1 pint vegetable or chicken stock
1 small onion chopped
Pinch mixed herbs
2 tbsp olive oil
2oz butter
250g/9oz pumpkin or squash chopped
50g/2oz butter
Salt and pepper
Fresh parmesan to garnish

Method

In a large frying pan fry the onion in the oil until soft but not brown.

Add the rice and mix well to coat the grains with the oil, add a cupful of hot stock and simmer until the stock is almost absorbed.

Add the pumpkin or squash and another cup of stock, continue to simmer until the stock is almost absorbed once again.

Continue to add a spoonful of stock at a time until the rice is cooked, traditionally it should be ‘al dente’, that is cooked but still with a little firmness to it, but if you prefer it softer that’s fine. You may still have a little stock left when the rice is cooked, and at this stage season with salt and pepper and stir in the butter, the texture should be loose and creamy.

This whole process will take about 20 mins.

Serve with grated parmesan. Delicious!

Hope I've got you into the spirit for experimenting with something that most people reserve for carving once a year. Try my risotto or get creative and experiment with the flavours!