Top Tip for Healthy Eating

BigSaladWithPumpkinseed 038

Over our lives many changes mean that we have to alter our eating habits… pregnancy, loss of income, children leaving home, periods of living alone to mention but a few. Throughout these changes it is important not to lose sight of the fact that ‘we are what we eat’. Dietary neglect is often the root cause of more serious and life threatening health issues. Diabetes (type 2) has been in the news recently, not at all surprising to me, for the alarming requirement of 10% of the NHS funds. And of course how does Diabetes (type 2) begin? With poor dietary choice.

Create long lasting, healthy eating habits for yourself by considering the yogic principle of Prana – Life Force. Most of us get our Life Force (Prana) through eating food. Those who have a regular Pranayama practice will be gaining the benefits of better oxygenation, therefore more Prana via the breathing process (and therefore less requirement via food). So the question before eating a meal or a snack is ‘How much Prana is this going to give me?’ The answer is that the more alive your food is then the more Prana it will give you. Fresh fruit and vegetables, ripened by the sun are brimming over with juicy life force and energy. Any products that are dead or have been pre-prepared must have preservatives added to them and therefore will have less Prana. Seed and nuts are capsules containing the energy to grow and are therefore considered to have plenty of Prana. Interestingly, beer, wine and cheese also are considered to be full of Prana. (Those Yogis knew how to live!)

So the top tip is to chose foods that will fill you up with Prana and therefore fill you up with energy.

Is it the right time to detox…?

ginger water

At this time of year it’s  not uncommon to feel a bit down in the dumps. Seasonal Adjustment Disorder (SAD) is now accepted as a real ‘thing’ and it is thought that the lack of day light hours effects our brains to makes us feel this way. (So it’s not just me then!!)

Coupled with the over-indulgencies of the Christmas period which may have piled on a few pounds and added a shade or two to the bags under the eyes; this time of year can leave us feeling heavy, sluggish, tired and basically a bit unenthusiastic.

It may be time to consider a detox –  to rid your body of accumulated toxins that have gathered over the winter season. Other signs that could indicate a detox is in order are – lack-lustre skin, aching or stiff joints or a furry coating on your tongue (yuck!).

Ayurveda is an ancient sister-act of yoga which offers simple but effective treatments to bring the body back to its natural condition. There are a variety of detox methods some which you can safely do at home and some which you can visit an Ayurveda therapist  for (I think our nearest is in Leicester).

Ayurveda believes that all illness starts when our digestion doesn’t work properly. When the digestive fire (called Agni) is disturbed and food is not fully digested, it becomes a sticky, foul-smelling toxic residue known as ‘Ama’. If this is left to build up, it can further subdue the digestive system, clogging it up and creating imbalances that eventually lead to disease.

One of the simplest things you can do to boost your digestive power, according to Ayurveda, is to drink warm water. (Crikey, is it really that simple???) Well why not swap your tea and coffee and give it a try? Plain water is fine but you can also add a couple of slices of fresh ginger. Cold drinks are best avoided, especially iced drinks as they can weaken your digestive fire – quite literally putting it out.

The same goes for your diet – go for warming soups and vegetable stews  and avoid bread, cheese, meat pastries and cakes. These are heavy foods and congest the digestive system. Raw fruit and vegetables can also strain the digestive system, so it’s best to keep these to a minimum.

The Ayurvedic approach aims to support your digestive system – to rid it of ailments and get it running smoothly. The warm water detox can help to do this.

YOGA FOR YOUR HANDS AND STOMACH

blackberry and apple crumble

In today’s world of convenience and speed we can lose out on using our hands, fingers, arms and shoulders. By adding simple tasks into our daily routine we are not only preserving the mobility of many joints and muscles but are also slowing down the pace of information into our brains to ‘take a moment to smell the roses’. One such activity is the age old ‘rubbing in method’ used in pastry, crumbles and many other bakes. Taking time to make food is a way of nurturing yourself and your family – when I was growing up if a recipe turned out well, my mum always said that it was because ‘it was made with love’. In the yoga tradition food is considered as ‘prana’ or energy which the body takes on board for sustenance  and healing, pre-prepared food is considered to be ‘dead’ and containing little ‘prana’. Why not get in touch with the season and prepare a fresh and wholesome Apple and Blackberry Crumble? If you don’t have a family recipe you could try this one by Delia which contains almonds in the topping – yum yum!

Other ways in which you can utilise your hands …

play the piano

make bread

pick apples/blackberries

arrange some flowers

HAPPY HANDYCRAFTING AND HEALTHY HANDS!

Tasty Cauliflower Cheese Lasagne

Cauliflower-cheese

This is such a fantastic invention, I’m surprised I haven’t thought about it before.  As most gardeners know vegetables are very like buses in that you don’t see anything for ages and then, all of a sudden, several come along all at once.  And that’s what it has been like with Cauliflowers recently for me.  So Cauliflower Cheese Lasagne was born and has become a firm favourite in our house.

Ingredients (serves 4)

3 chopped leeks

I lg prepared cauli or 2 sm

Cauliflower leaves (chopped) or half a bag of spinach

6 sheets dried lasagne

About 1 pt of cheese sauce (slightly more watery than usual)

Grated strong cheese

Method

Par boil all veg seperately. Layer leeks in bottom of lasagne dish, top with 1/3 sauce and half lasagne sheets. Layer leaves, add 1/3 sauce and other half lasagne sheets. Top with cauli florets and rest of sauce. Scatter grated cheese over and bake at 180 degrees for 40 minutes.

Serve with bacon if liked or crunchy bread or salad. Yummy!

 

 

 

 

The Wonders of Ginger

ginger

Since ancient times ginger root has been used as an effective remedy for many day to day common ailments.  It is a real medical marvel and  Eastern food even today uses copious amounts both for flavour and for the health giving benefits…

The ginger plant grows mainly in tropical countries – it is a creeping perennial with thick, tuberous underground stems and can grow up to one metre high. According to Chinese tradition, dried ginger tends to be hotter than fresh.

Ginger is available in various forms:

  • Whole fresh roots. These provide the freshest taste.
  • Dried roots.
  • Powdered ginger. This is ground made from the dried root- Preserved or ‘stem’ Fresh young roots are peeled, sliced and cooked in heavy sugar syrup.
  • Crystallised ginger. This is also cooked in sugar syrup, air dried and rolled in sugar.
  • Pickled ginger. The root is sliced paper thin and pickled in vinegar. This pickle, known in Japan as gari, often accompanies sushi to refresh the palate between        

 The many curative properties of ginger are widely researched. Used on the skin it can stimulate the circulation and soothe burns. As a diaphoretic it encourages perspiration, so it can be used in feverish conditions such as influenza or colds. The root, which is the part of the plant most widely used in alternative forms of medicine, is rich in volatile oils. It is these oils that contain the active component gingerol.

Soothes digestive system…

Historically, ginger has a long tradition of being very effective in alleviating discomfort and pain in the stomach. Ginger is regarded as an excellent carminative, a substance that promotes the elimination of excessive gas from the digestive system and soothes the intestinal tract. Colic, and dyspepsia , respond particularly well to ginger.

Nausea…

Gingerroot appears to reduce the symptoms associated with motion sickness including dizziness, nausea, vomiting and cold sweating. Ginger has also been used to treat the nausea and vomiting associated with mild symptoms of pregnancy sickness.

Gingerols…

Ginger contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols. These substances are believed to explain why so many people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis experience reductions in their pain levels and improvements in their mobility when they consume ginger regularly. Gingerols inhibit the formation of inflammatory cytokines; chemical messengers of the immune system.

How to select and store

Fresh ginger can be purchased in most supermarkets. Mature ginger has a tough skin that requires peeling. Fresh ginger can be stored in the fridge for up to three weeks if it is left unpeeled. Whenever possible, choose fresh ginger over dried since it is superior in flavour and contains higher levels of the active component gingerol. The root should be fresh looking, firm, smooth and free of mould with no signs of decay or wrinkled skin. If choosing dry ginger, keep it in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark dry place for no more than six months.


Safety

Ginger is very safe for a broad range of complaints, whether it is taken in a concentrated capsule form, eaten fresh or sipped as a tea or ginger ale. Ginger contains moderate amounts of oxalate. Individuals with a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones should avoid overconsuming ginger. If you’re unsure or concerned whether it is safe for you to consume ginger always consult your doctor.


How to get more ginger into your life… simply eat plenty of recipes containing ginger…

Gingerbread biscuits
Ginger cake
Grated or finely chopped, ginger adds a zing to a stir fry or soup
Ginger goes well with fish
Jams and chutneys also work well with ginger
Try making your own ginger tea:

To make ginger tea (for nausea)…
Steep 20-40g of fresh, sliced ginger in a cup of hot water. Add a slice of lemon or a drop of honey if you fancy.

Ginger tea is great to drink when you feel a cold coming on. It is a diaphoretic tea, meaning that it will warm you from the inside and promote perspiration. It is also good when you don’t have a cold and just want to warm up!

Simple Creamy Mushroom Biryani

mush biryani

If yours is a mad house in the evenings like mine, you need food that is easy to prepare, tasty and fully flexible – suitable for reheating when someone comes in late or you all come home at different times.

This Biryana ticks all the boxes… make it ahead, the time it rests allows the flavours to develop. Reheat all together or in parts and you can always cook a chicken leg or grill some bacon for those who fancy some meat on the side.

Creamy Mushroom Biryani

Ingredients (serves 4 big helpings)

Mushrooms – 300 gms

Oil – 2 tbs
Onions – 4 sliced thinly
Basmati Rice – 2 cups
Coconut Milk – 1 cup

For the Marinade

Plain Yogurt – 1/2 cup
Garlic – 2 or 3 cloves minced

Red chilli powder – 1 tsp
Garam Masala – 1 tsp
Salt + Pepper to taste
Coriander leaves – handful, finely chopped

For the seasoning

Ghee – 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Fennel seeds – 1 tsp

Add 2 tbsp oil to a large wok and fry the onions in it till brown and crispy.

Remove half the onions to a dish, add the mushrooms and marinade ingredients. Leave covered for 30 minutes.

Wash rice in 4 cups of water and leave to soak for 30 minutes.

Remove mushroom mix to plate, wash wok out.

In the wok add ghee and saute the seasoning for a couple of minutes.  Add the plate of marinated mushrooms and cook for 5-7 minutes or till the mushrooms start shrinking. Mix in the coconut milk and let it cook for another 3-4 minutes.
Drain the rice(reserve the water) and mix in carefully. Add in salt and pepper. Add the water in which the rice was soaked and bring to boil. Cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes.

The water should be fully absorbed by now – leave it undisturbed for another 15 minutes.  Fluff up and serve with the rest of the fried onions.

I leave the wok to go cold and then re-heat as the family need (it’s like having a running buffet!!). Take a portion off and reheat in a smaller saucepan. Fluff the rice with a fork, mix lovingly with a few of the fried onions and serve with a smile!

STEP AWAY FROM THE MINCE PIE…

mincepies

Did you know that it takes on average 3 months to lose the weight gained over the Christmas period??? According to research by MSN, for Christmas lunch alone the average person in the UK eats two to three servings, consuming a whopping 2,300 calories in one meal.  That accounts for 115 per cent of the recommended daily intake for women, and 92 per cent for men – and that’s before taking into account the nuts, chocolates and alcohol we consume.

Here are a few ideas that may help you survive this Christmas without piling on the pounds…

PASS ON SECONDS

Practice saying, “Thank you that was delicious, but I’ll pass on seconds.”

PLAN AHEAD

If you are going out to a group meal – try to get a look at the menu online and choose beforehand the least calorific choices.

DRIVE

By being the designated driver of your group you’ll have to forgo the alcoholic part of the evening – but you will also miss out on the hang over and calories too!

EXERCISE PORTION CONTROL

Most people don’t want to be over-faced with a huge great pile of food.  We have a tendency to think that feeding people up is a way of showing our love – well it won’t if the person becomes obese!

DON’T STOCK PILE

The shops are only shut for a couple of days – save the money and take the family to the movies instead.

GET FRESH AIR EVERY DAY

Try to get out into the open air for a walk, the fresh air will do wonders for everyone’s lungs and the movement of the legs will aid elimination.

ALTERNATE YOUR DRINKS

Try having a glass of water in between each alcoholic drink.

The Yogic Approach to Eating…

The yogic approach to eating is worthy of a mention at this point…the ancient text ‘Hatha Yoga Pradipika’ suggests that you should only fill your stomach to half way with food, then another quarter should be filled with water and the other quarter left empty.

This is easier said than done, for a start off if you are constantly holding the tummy in, you won’t be able to allow the food to pass – constant tension in the abdomen means that you are restricting the peristalsis movement of the intestine and therefore the stomach doesn’t know it’s full until it’s too late. Creating the right atmosphere – relaxed – is therefore important before you eat and then taking time, looking at food, chewing slowly and really appreciating the flavours and textures all go a long way to ensure that the stomach receives food that is correctly prepared. I don’t think we can expect the Christmas dinner table to offer all these attributes – but perhaps we can with one or two other meals over the festive period?

 

YUMMY WINTER MEAL

vege shep pie

Hears a yummy winter meal to warm the cockles… it doesn’t take very long to prepare – about 35 minutes and serves 4 people.  Once you’ve made the ‘pie’ you can leave it to go cold and keep it in the fridge (covered) for a day or 2 then heat it in the oven (about 40 minutes on 180 degrees) when you want it – ensure it is thoroughly cooked through before eating if you go for this option.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, halved and sliced

2 large carrots (500g/1lb 2oz in total), cut into sugar-cube size pieces

2 tbsp thyme chopped

400g can chopped tomatoes

2 vegetable stock cubes

410g can green lentils

950g sweet potatoes + swede, peeled and cut into chunks

25g butter

Fry the onions in the oil to soften and sweeten. When translucent, add the carrots, thyme, tomatoes, lentils and stock cubes. Bring to the boil and simmer while you cook the potato and swede in boiling salted water.  When the potato and swede are cooked, drain and mash with the butter. Place the lentil mixture into an ovenproof dish and top with the mash. Grill or oven bake until the top is crispy and brown. Serve with steamed broccoli or curly kale for a well balanced, nutritious meal.