Thursday, 29 November 2012

Healthy Cinnamon Pancakes

I have been trying for ages to make a healthy pancake that doesn't fall apart when you try and flip it. At last I managed to create one that is robust, healthy (if you are OK with dairy) and tastes really good.

Makes 1 good sized pancake, ideal for breakfast with berries or savory filling. If using savory leave out the cinnamon in the mix.

1 beaten egg

2 tablespoons double cream

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon coconut flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons coconut oil, avocado oil or madadamia nut oil for cooking

Mix the double cream into the beaten egg. Add the water.

Add the coconut flour and blend well.

Add the cinnamon if you are topping with fruit.

Heat the oil in a pancake pan until it smokes slightly.

Add the mixture and cook for a few minutes until the pancake is puffy and leaving the bottom of the pan (careful it doesn't burn though, the first day I did slightly burn one side!).

Flip over (it should flip in one piece if it's cooked enough) and cook for another couple of minutes. Fold over and add toppings.

I used frozen mixed fruit which I heated in the microwave (not very paleo I know!) with some cinnamon, cloves and mixed spice. Fantastic as a change from an omelette. I found this pretty much kept me going until lunch with the help of a few mixed nuts mid morning.  

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Pumpkin, ginger and cheese soup

This soup is very heavy on dairy as it contains cream and cheese. Strict paleo dieters don't eat dairy at all but a moderate primal approach does allow dairy. It's very individual as to how you do on dairy, I seem to be fine with it but do choose to eat it in moderation. Other people find it causes them stomach problems or inhibits weight loss if they are aiming to lose some weight. On the plus side this soup is very filling as it contains a lot of fat and so it will keep you going throughout the afternoon if you have it for lunch. Many people (including me!)  find a bowl of vegetable based soup not enough to sustain them for several hours and so will find themselves snacking during the afternoon. This soup should be eaten alone, definitely not one to have with any bread or other carbohydrate based foods.

You will need:

1 large white onion, peeled and sliced
1 large leek, rinsed and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped (or crushed)
3cm piece ginger, peeled and chopped
25g butter
25g coconut oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
600g pumpkin (or butternut squash) peeled, deseeded and roughly chopped
600 ml sugar free vegetable stock
200ml double cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
60g coarsley grated strong cheese


Saute the onion, leek, garlic and ginger in the butter and coconut oil over a low heat with the lid on, stirring occasionally, until everything is soft and wilted.

Add the turmeric, pumpkin or squash and half the stock and cook over a low heat with the lid on until the pumpkin or squash is cooked, approximately 30 mins.

When cooked mash it with a potato masher, it doesn't need to be smooth.

Add the remaining stock, the cream and plenty of coarsley ground pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer with the lid on and cook for 15 minutes.

Season with salt and add nutmeg to taste. Stir in the cheese and ladle into hot soup bowls.

If you want to freeze some or all of this soup don't add the cream or cheese before freezing. Once it is defrosted add the cream and bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes, then add the cheese and serve. 

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Apple, cinnamon and raisin muffins

I made these muffins last week and they were really tasty. Almond flour is a gluten free, low carbohydrate nutritious alternative to wheat flour with all the health benefits of eating whole almonds.

I didn't take any photos of these cakes but take it from me, they looked good and tasted even better!

You will need:

200g almond flour

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp cinnamon

60g butter, melted

3 tbsp honey (raw is best)

2 eggs beaten

1 medium apple peeled, cored and diced

1 tsp vanilla extract

50g raisins


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (170 fan oven).

In a bowl mix together the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon.

Mix the honey into the melted butter and add the beaten eggs, vanilla, diced apple and raisins.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients together and spoon mixture into muffin cases.

Bake for 15 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven.


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Seeded paleo bread

This bread has a dark colour and a chewy texture not unlike rye bread. Its good sliced and toasted topped with normal butter or nut butter.

You will need:

200g ground almonds/almond flour 

5 tbsp psyllium husk powder

2 tsp gluten free baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

200 ml boiling water

35g mixed seeds


Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. In a large mixing bowl combine the almond flour psyllium husk powder, baking powder, seeds and salt.

Add the eggs and the boiling water and mix well until combined into a thick dough.

Form into 4 sub shaped rolls on a greased baking tray or put into a greased loaf tin. Bake rolls for 45 minutes, loaf for 1 hour and 5 minutes.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Sweet potato pancakes with cinnamon

These are work in progress, I'm planning on trying some different ingredients and consistencies but in the meantime these are perfectly edible and very nutritious compared to normal pancakes. Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A, vitamin B, iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium. Although a starchy carbohydrate, they are absorbed slowly by the body so don't cause blood sugar to raise too quickly. Coconut flour is a good source of dietry fibre and iron. Coconut milk is a good source of omega 3 fats and calcuim (if you don't have coconut milk they work just as well with water however).

As you can see these pancakes don't look particulary pretty, I found it quite hard to flip them without them breaking and I did piece this one together for the photoshoot!! The key to flipping is to make sure one side is well cooked before attempting to turn them over!

Makes 4 pancakes

You will need:

2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon coconut flour
2 tablespoons mashed sweet potato
Tsp vanilla essence
Tsp cinnamon
100ml coconut milk
100ml water
Macadamia nut oil/avocado/coconut oil/butter for cooking

Put the flour into a bowl with the cinnamon and add the eggs, vanilla essence and coconut milk/water and whisk together.

Add the sweet potato and mix until there are no lumps.

Melt some oil/butter in a pancake pan and add a ladleful of mixture when the oil is smoking hot.

Cook one side for approximately 4 minutes and then carefully turn over with a large spatula.

Cook the other side for 2-3 minutes.

Serving ideas:

Serve with berries or banana, a spoonful of butter or coconut oil, an extra sprinkle of cinnamon, a dusting of cocoa powder or for a very occasional treat a drizzle of maple syrup.

Coconut milk will make them more calorie dense and so more filling but water works just as well if you don't have coconut milk. Use 200 ml of water if you are not using coconut milk.

I found these pancakes (made with the coconut milk) filled me up for at least five hours so they make a good choice for breakfast if you know you are going to have a late lunch.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Why paleo dieting works (for me) - Day 16 of my 30 day Paleo challenge

I admit that I entitled this post Why paleo dieting works. In fact I would have left it like that but I decided that in the interests of being politically correct I would acknowledge that I am speaking from my own experience and that of my handful of clients who have dropped 3lbs to 5lbs in the first week of eating clean unprocessed foods such as meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, berries and nuts and seeds (see some of  my earlier posts for more details on paleo eating and some recipes to get you started). I would be absolutely amazed if there was anyone who stuck to this diet for at least 90% of the time and didn't lose weight, I really would.

What is so different about this diet than those from WeightWatchers, LighterLife, Slimming World, the Cambridge diet etc? Mainly it's that its about REAL food, the kind of food our bodies evolved to eat; not the so called 'frankenfoods' in the supermarkets which are a concoction of sugar, unhealthy fats and chemicals. (Most of the big diet companies have their own ranges of these frankenfoods which they are keen to push to those on their diets.) When you are eating real foods you feel fuller and more satisfied and as you are getting a good dose of nutrition at every meal the cravings you have for sweet sugary foods disappears over time.

Like every diet though you need help and support to make it stick. Habits are formed over time, and food and drink habits are very powerful based around social, physical and emotional thoughts and actions. Habits take time to change so you need to give yourself a good month of eating clean foods before new habits are formed and old cravings disappear. It's good to work with a coach, a group from your gym, friends who are also looking to lose weight and become more healthy or a spouse who also wants to make the change.

If weight loss in itself was enough to give people motivation then everyone that went on a diet would be successful and would keep the weight off but we know that is not the case. With a paleo or primal style diet (main difference for me is that primal is less strict and allows dairy) there are so many health and wellbeing benefits such as staving off inflammation in the body, preventing type 2 diabetes, staying young longer, better skin and hair, more energy (in the long term, it might take a week or two to adapt at first) that these in themselves are enough to spur me on. I am planning on living to a ripe old age and being active and mobile and enjoying myself not stuck in a chair in an old peoples home. There are no guarantees of course, but I would like to bet on the fact that I have more chance of making it than those eating a junk and processed food based diet.

If you want to join me for the last 14 days drop a comment below and I will support you through it. Go on, you know you're worth it (and it will do you a lot more good than using the right shampoo!!).

Friday, 12 October 2012

Paleo Scotch Eggs

Paleo Scotch Eggs

  8 eggs

 750g sausage meat (free range best quality if possible)

  Oil for frying (coconut, avocado or macadamia nut are best)


To hard boil the eggs, place in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling rapidly, turn the heat off and cover the pot with a lid for 10 minutes.

Transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. When cooled, peel the eggs.

Divide the sausage meat into 8 equal portions.

Use your hands to form each portion of meat into a flat pancake a few inches wide. Wrap the meat around an egg, gently shaping it so there are no cracks and the egg is completely hidden.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees. Pour just enough oil/fat into a deep pan to coat the bottom of the pan. Heat for 2-3 minutes over high heat on the stove until the oil is shimmering.

Cook two eggs at time. Roll the eggs around every few minutes in the oil so all sides of the meat become nicely browned. Cook each egg for about 8 minutes total.

Transfer to the oven and cook for 6-8 minutes more until the sausage is cooked through.

Eat the eggs warm or cold. Serve alone as a snack or with salad or mixed veggies as a main meal.

Store leftover eggs individually in freezer bags and pop into the freezer. Defrost overnight for snacks/breakfast.

One tray roast salmon with squash and asparagus

This is a really nice recipe as it's all cooked in one roasting tin so saves on the washing up!

Serves 4

You will need:

1 small butternut squash, peeled and chopped
2 large red onions, peeled and quartered
2 tbsp avocado oil or macadamia nut oil
1 x 200g pack fine asparagus tips
4 boneless wild salmon fillets
Bag of watercress, thick stalks removed
1 tbsp dill
1 lemon quartered (optional - I prefer this without the lemon)

Preheat the oven to 200 C (fan oven 180 C). Put the lemon quarters (if using), squash and onion in a bowl with one tablespoon of the oil and some seasoning. Toss everything together and tip on to a baking tray in a single layer. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes

After 20 minutes sprinkle the salmon with dill and tip the asparagus and salmon fillets into the bowl, add the remaining tablespoon of oil and season. Toss everything together to coat with the oil.

Remove the tray from the oven. Tuck the salmon and asparagus among the squash and onion. Return to the oven for 20 minutes or until the salmon is cooked (depending on the thickness).

Serve with the watercress.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Days 5 to 8 Paleo Challenge - Changing Unhealthy Behaviours

Day 5 was a Friday and I got to thinking about the habits and rituals that are tied to food. Years ago my husband and I ALWAYS had a Chinese takeaway and a bottle of wine on  a Friday evening as a 'treat' to celebrate the weekend. Invariably I would fall asleep on the sofa and then be awake at 4am thirsty, with a headache and feeling generally awful. Not a good start to the weekend but we did it for years!

These days we very rarely eat Chinese takeaways although we often do have a glass or two of wine on a Friday. This was the first Friday evening of my paleo challenge and so I didn't have wine although I did feel a tiny bit put out that my Friday night ritual wasn't going to happen. However I went to bed clear headed, slept well all night and woke up refreshed Saturday morning. As I was doing an 8k race on Saturday that was probably just as well.

So in order to break habits you sometimes need something drastic in the first instance. Something like a sugar/alcohol/grain ban for a certain length of time can just enable you to change your behaviour and put in place something new. So, some tips for new healthy behaviours around treating yourself with food at the weekend:

  1. Instead of a glass of wine or beer pour yourself a long glass of sparkling water fresh from the fridge, add ice cubes and a squeeze of lime. Add a straw and you can make yourself believe it's a cocktail!
  2. Instead of takeaways make your own versions of stir frys or curries using good healthy ingredients. I will post some good recipes on here over the next few weeks.
  3. Substitute sugar laden cakes and biscuits for paleo friendly cakes such as the muffins you will find on this blog. They satisfy the need for cake but don't contain sugar and trans fats that will cause cravings and weight gain.
  4. If crisps are your weakness (as they are mine!) then the kale chips I published on here a couple of weeks ago are an absolute MUST. They are just so yummy!

All of the meals I have eaten during this challenge have been tasty and satisfying. The great thing about eating paleo style is that you don't feel that gnawing hunger that you feel when you are on a calorie controlled diet based around carbohydrates and the food cravings are much more manageable.

Dinner day 5 - meatballs, sweet potato chips and cabbage 

Breakfast  day 6 - kippers, scrambled egg, rocket and cherry tomatoes

Monday, 8 October 2012

Banana, sweet potato and walnut muffins

As I am doing a 30 day sugar free challenge I wanted to make some cakes that were completely sugar/honey/syrup/sweetener free. I came up with the idea of using sweet potato and banana to create the sweetness, and cinnamon and all spice to add some flavour. The texture was quite spongy but they tasted nice and made ideal nutritious afternoon snacks. They would also make a great on the go breakfast, I made mine quite small as my silicone cases are smallish, but you could make them more like a muffin size if you were using them as a  meal on the run.

You will need:

30g coconut flour (tiana do a good one)
30g butter or coconut oil melted

2 tablespoons coconut milk
3 medium eggs beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder

3 tablespoons cooked, mashed sweet potato

1 small banana, mashed
1 teaspoon mixed spice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 small (or half a large) carrot, grated

25g walnuts

¼ teaspoon salt
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees (180 for fan oven)
Blend together the eggs, coconut oil/butter, coconut milk, vanilla essence, sweet potato, banana, walnuts, grated carrot and salt
Combine baking powder, cinnamon and mixed spice with the coconut flour and whisk into the batter until there are no more lumps
Pour batter into greased muffin tin or muffin cases (silicone are good)
Bake for 15 minutes

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Day 4 - paleo challenge

Day 4, Thursday and the weekend is approaching. I was thinking this evening that I wouldn't be able to have a glass of wine tomorrow evening - my 'treat' to celebrate the end of the week and the start of the weekend. It made me wonder why I didn't consider a nice long glass of cold sparkling water with a squeeze of lime juice (my drink of choice other evenings) a treat? My body certainly considers it more of a treat than alcohol which is of course fairly toxic especially in large quantities. So why do we consider foods that are unhealthy for us to be a treat? We are programmed to like the taste of fat and sugar; as cavemen we would gorge on fat if we got it because we didn't know when we would find it again. Nowadays fatty sugary foods are readily available and the media are very clever at making us believe that foods such as chocolate bars are the ultimate treat. Parents teach children from an early age that sweets and crisps are a treat. These foods are addictive - sugar and wheat contain substances that act like a drug which keeps us wanting more. So how do we break out of this cycle? Most importantly we can clean up our diet and eliminate grains and sugar to cut these cravings. The paleo/primal style of eating is perfect for this, if you are full, satisfied and getting proper nutrition you will be much more inclined to stick with a healthy eating plan. Give it a try and see how you feel, you can always join me, I've got 25 days to go!

What I ate today:

Breakfast -  3 egg omelette with mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, coconut oil

Lunch - Sardines cooked in coconut oil, big salad

Snack - bacon and egg muffin from my recipe on this blog

Dinner - three free range pork sausages from a local butcher, roasted veg, broccoli

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Paleo challenge - day 3

Today I have been mostly eating egg and bacon muffins! I have had 6 of them, 4 for breakfast and two as a snack this afternoon before going off to take a spin class.

When cooking dinner tonight I had a dilemma about sugar. I was making a stir fry from a recipe that we often use but realised that it uses oyster sauce which on closer inspection contains sugar and some other additives such as soy extract. As I am strictly adhering to a no sugar policy I decided to see what else I could use and found the chinese five spice powder and lo and behold that also contains sugar! So I played it very safe and just used coconut oil on the stir fried veggies and prawns. Actually it was fabulous, so much better than any stir fry sauce. I just added 2 tablespoons of coconut oil to the veggies and prawns after they were cooked and let it melt. I won't be going back to any sauces again, I know coconut oil is so much more healthy. It's a good lesson about looking carefully at ingredients and how sugar lurks in so many everyday products.

Breakfast - 4 egg and bacon muffins with spinach and rocket and nettle tea

Snack - handful of macadamia nuts, green tea

Lunch - chicken breast cooked in coconut oil, large salad, oil (macadamia nut) and vinegar (raw apple cider vinegar) dressing, green tea

Snack - 2 egg and bacon muffins (only 2 left now, need to make some more tomorrow!)

Dinner - loads of stir fry vegetables and prawns with two tablespoons of coconut oil, camomile tea

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Paleo challenge - day 2

Second day went well but I am still missing my squares of dark chocolate! It got me thinking about how people are motivated to stick with a healthy eating programme. One of the main motivators for me in this particular challenge is the fact that there is a group of us doing it together, communicating regularly on a Facebook group page to support each other. We don't know each other well personally, in fact I haven't even met a few of them but we are united in our goal. I feel accountable to these people which is spurring me on to stick with the plan. So if you want to clean up your diet or try a more strict paleo programme I recommend you find some support, either a coach or a group of like minded people, it really makes the difference.

Food today:

Breakfast - omelette with butternut squash and courgette and coconut oil

Post workout mid morning snack - stick of celery and a small portion of macadamia nuts

Lunch - cold cooked chicken, rocket, celery, tomatoes, cucumber, sunflower seeds,
macadamia nut oil and raw apple cider vinegar dressing

Mid afternoon snack - 3 egg and bacon muffins, see recipe on this blog

Dinner - cod fillet cooked in coconut oil with bacon, onion and peppers, green salad with oil salad dressing

Evening snack - handful brazil and macadamia nuts

I kept my fat intake pretty high with the coconut oil and macadamia nut oils to keep hunger at bay.

Egg and Bacon Muffins

These are absolutely delicious! Who says muffins have to be sweet? These make great portable snacks for breakfast or lunch. You can batch cook and freeze.


1 tablespoon coconut oil
4 bacon rashers,chopped
Small onion, chopped
1 pepper, chopped
Half a courgette, grated
6 eggs beaten

Salt and pepper


Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees (170 fan oven)

Fry the bacon, onion and pepper in the coconut oil until the onion is soft

Add the grated courgette to the beaten eggs and mix well.

Place 10 muffin cases on a baking tray (silicone is best)

Add a heaped teaspoon of the bacon mixture to each case until you have used it all up and top up with egg and courgette mixture

Bake in a pre-heated oven for 15 minutes

Allow to cool on a wire rack

You can make these with smoked salmon instead of bacon. You can use any veggies at all and you can substitute the courgette for cauliflower. 


Monday, 1 October 2012

30 day paleo challenge - a step by step guide

A personal trainer at my gym has laid down the gauntlet to some of us keen paleo hacks - a 30 day strict paleo challenge, no dairy, no grains, no alcohol, no legumes, no sugar and of course no processed foods. For anyone who has read any of my blog you will know that I am already a big fan of paleo/primal eating and stick to it at least 80% of the time if not 90%.

Grains are easy for me to shun and I haven't eaten any wheat based grains for a few months apart from one piece of chocolate birthday cake in August. The fact that wheat is so genetically modified and pretty toxic for our bodies these days is enough to keep me on track. Funnily enough the smell of bread is better than the taste for me these days! I can get high on the smell of freshly baked bread that my husband brings home on Saturday for him and our 10 year old twins (they are not yet convinced about paleo eating but I'm working on it!).

What I will miss is dairy mainly natural yogurt and goats cheese/halloumi cheese. I also have a small amount of milk in black tea a couple of times a day so I'm giving up black tea too. I will still have a couple of cups of green tea per day. Wine of course is a nice indulgence at weekends so that will be missed and I have two meals out to contend with during the 30 days.

So, why I am doing this at all then?Well it's good to challenge myself to see it I can stick on plan for that long. It's also great for my body to rid it of any lingering toxins or intolerances.

For 30 days I'm planning on posting what I've eaten, how I'm feeling and what is keeping me going. If you feel like joining me in my 30 day challenge leave a note below and we can support each other. Each day I'll also post what I've eaten, partly as it keeps me accountable and partly to give other people ideas about what the paleo diet is all about.

Breakfast  - three egg omelette with left over veg from yesterday and a spoonful of coconut oil

Mid morning snack - kale crisps (very yummy) see my recipe on this blog

Lunch - tin mackrel, lettuce, tomatoes, celery, red pepper, half avocado, dressing made from raw apple cider vinegar, avocado oil, olive oil and macadamia nut oil

Late afternoon snack - stick of celery, small handful macadamia nuts

Dinner - free range chicken breast cooked with coconut oil and spices, half sweet potato cut into wedges, green vegetable mix (cabbage, courgettes, broccoli)

See my post tomorrow for day 2!

Sea Salted Kale Crisps

You will need:

1 bag kale, washed and left to dry (remove leaves from stalks before washing)

2 tablespoons macadamia nut/avocado oil

Good sprinkle sea salt


Put the kale in a large bowl and add the oil.

Mix well to coat all the kale with the oil

Put onto baking trays in a single layer

Bake in a preheated oven 200 degrees (180 degrees fan) for 10 - 12 minutes or until crispy and slightly blackened (but not burnt!)

Kale is packed with nutrition, containing vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and calcium

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Nut and Raisin Muffins

You will need:
30g coconut flour (tiana do a good one)
30g butter or coconut oil melted
2 tablespoons coconut milk
3 medium eggs beaten
¼ teaspoon vanilla essence
¼ teaspoon gluten free baking powder
3 tablespoons honey
25g raisins
25g chopped mixed nuts
¼ teaspoon salt
Handful sunflower seeds

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees (180 for fan oven)
Blend together the eggs, honey, coconut oil/butter, coconut milk, vanilla essence, raisins, walnuts and salt
Combine baking powder with the coconut flour and whisk into the batter until there are no lumps
Pour batter into greased muffin tin or muffin cases (silicone are good)
Sprinkle with sunflower seeds
Bake for 15 minutes

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Shepherds pie with butternut squash mash and cabbage and fennel side

You will need:
750g minced beef (grass fed if possible)
I large red onion chopped small
I rounded tablespoon corn flour
I rounded tablespoon tomato puree
1 rounded tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
450g sugar free stock
1 very large butternut squash peeled and cut into chunks
1 savoy cabbage shredded
1 fennel bulb chopped small
2 tablespoons coconut oil

Dry fry the mince and onion until the mince is browned
Stir in flour, tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce
Add stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Steam butternut squash for 15 minutes until soft.
Mash squash with one tablespoon of coconut oil
Put mince mixture into 3-4 individual dishes or one large dish
Layer mashed squash on the top and top with a little grated cheese if you eat dairy
Put into the oven and set the timer for 25-30 minutes
Wrap fennel bulb in foil with a little coconut oil and put on baking tray into the oven
10 minutes before the end of cooking time steam the cabbage
Mix the cabbage and fennel together and toss with a tablespoon of coconut oil
Note: the flour and worcestershire sauce are not strictly paleo diet friendly but in such small quantities they are worth adding for the flavour and texture of the dish

Monday, 24 September 2012

Macadamia Nut Houmous (Hummus)

Recipe for Macadamia Nut Houmous

100 g Macadamia Nuts
50 g sunflower seeds
2 garlic cloves peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons olive/avocado oil
120 ml water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon

Place the macademia nuts, sunflower seeds, garlic, lime juice and oil in a food processer and blend together

Add half of the water, the tarragon, and the salt and pepper and blend until smooth

Add the remaining water a little at a time whilst continuing to blend to achieve a thick smooth paste

Transfer to 3 or 4 small bowls, cover and refridgerate for at least 30 minutes before serving

The houmous will keep for 5 days in the fridge so you eat one and keep the others for packed lunches/snacks

You may want to omit the garlic if you are using this for lunch and work with other people!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

So what exactly does eating a primal/paleo diet mean to me and how do I make it work?

When I say I eat a primal/paleo diet what I actually mean is that I embrace the principals, wholeheartedly believe that it is the right way to eat for health and weight loss and maintenance and then adapt it to suit my body and my lifestyle. Some aspects of the primal diet I have totally taken on board, some I am still working on; the rest I probably will stick with what I am already doing which seems to be working. And I guess this is the way most people who are trying to clean up their diet work although there are the so called purists who may say that their way is the only way, the primal/paleo diet fascists!!

A quick recap of what primal/paleo eating is all about; basically eating a diet similar to the one we would have eaten as hunter gatherers before the agricultural revolution and certainly before Tesco and Sainsburys! It's based on fresh unprocessed foods, mainly meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, berries, nuts, seeds and good fats (check out tomorrow's post on what are classed as good fats and what should be avoided). It may sound limited but it's surprising how many fantastic tasty dishes you can make using these ingredients. Hunter gatherers would probably have eaten insects too but most people following this diet (but not all!!) would draw the line at eating ants and grubs!

So, that is what you can eat, what about what you can't eat? (or rather I like to think of it as choosing not to eat). In a strict/pure paleo diet grains, dairy, legumes, refined sugars, white potatoes and all processed foods are out. This may seem like a daunting list to some people; as this is an eating plan for life and not just for a period of time in order to lose some weight then it is important that you can live with it long term.

OK, so how do I live with it long term, in fact more than living with it I am loving it? Firstly I embrace the 80/20 rule, generally sticking to my primal diet during the week, then maybe on Friday or Saturday having something I wouldn't normally have but really enjoy such as a couple of glasses of wine or a bowl of crisps. Secondly I make my paleo meals as tasty as I can so I always enjoy my food. Probably most importantly I eat enough to ensure I am not hungry between meals so I am cutting food cravings and the temptation to binge.

For me the foods that I will avoid mostly are grains, sugar and articfical sweetners, and processed foods. I do eat some dairy, mainly full fat natural yogurt and small amounts of cheese, especially goats cheese and halloumi cheese. This seems to work OK for me although some people may have allergies to dairy.

The aspect of the diet I am still working on is the belief that all food should be in it's most natural state, in other words free range, grass fed and organic. This would mean that meat would be grass fed, free range and organic, poultry free range and organic, dairy would be raw and unpasturised, eggs free range and organic and all vegetables organic. In the real world this makes food much more expensive especially when you are feeding a family of four. So, some of our food does follow this principal and some doesn't; I get an organic veg box delivered and buy organic fruit, some of our meat comes from a butcher that does provide grass fed and organic meat and some of it comes from a supermarket.

Food has and always will be a big important part of my life, I have never been one of those people who eats to live! By following the primal/paleo principals I have found that I can enjoy lots of very tasty foods whilst staying lean, fit and healthy. Who could ask for more?

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Confessions of an eternal dieter....and why eating paleo/primal has finally stopped the yoyo dieting

My history with dieting started many years ago when I was 16 and at college. I was a normal healthy weight, maybe with a little 'puppy fat'. Other girls around me were starting to talk about weight loss and dieting and I jumped on the bandwagon, not realising what far reaching consequences this would have on my life.

I was a classic yoyo dieter, and would obsessively count calories for weeks, losing about half a stone and then suddenly my self control would snap and I would binge eat and put it all back on again. Luckily my binging and dieting never developed into a serious eating disorder and my weight would only change by 7 - 10lbs either side, but even so it was enough that I had clothes that I considered 'fat' clothes and those I could only wear when I was dieting.

This pattern continued into my twenties and early thirties. By this time I had become very interested in health and nutrition and decided to become a vegetarian. I embarked on what I thought was a very healthy diet of huge amounts of vegetables and fruits and lots of beans, legumes and of course typical carb rich veggie foods like pasta bakes.  I didn't eat meat for about 6 years until I became pregnant with twins at 40 and five months into the pregnancy craved meat so badly that my husband had to take me out for dinner for a hearty lamb stew! I began eating meat again as I recognised that my body was telling me what it needed and that was probably the first time I properly listened and gave it what it really needed.

After a successful but fairly gruelling pregnancy and with two babies to look after I tended to eat more or less what I wanted but still with an eye on what was considered heathy eating, ie whole grain carbs making up a good part of my diet with plenty of fruit and veg. I avoided fats like butter, full fat milk and yogurt substituting them for low fat versions. I did lose my baby fat by running round after my two small children but was still was a bit of a yoyo dieter, where I would have 'good' weeks and 'bad' weeks.

My twins are 10 now which of course makes me over 50! Having children late made me even more interested in health and nutrition as I want to be around as long as possible. At 50 I am in slimmer and in better shape than I have ever been and I have banished the yoyo dieting for good I think. So, how have I done this? About two years ago I stumbled on some information on the paleo/primal diet whilst searching for some information about IBS which I was suffering from (I now realise that it was the whole grains that were causing me the problems). This diet, which is basically eating how were evolved to eat, meat, fish, eggs, veggies, nuts and berries and healthy fats has made a huge difference to how I look and feel. I'm convinced that the traditional weight loss diets eating high carb, low fat and counting calories (or even worse the no-food diets) cause food cravings and huger that our bodies just can't ignore for too long. Eating paleo/primal gives you a way to lose weight without the hunger and cravings that cause us to fall off the diet wagon and put all the weight back on.

My next post will talk about how I make the paleo/primal diet work for me and how you can still eat out and enjoy life which of course will help to sustain your motivation. Watch this space!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

What is a healthy diet anyway, part 2 - finding paleo/primal

Having banished the worst of my IBS symptoms by cutting out all the fruit I was eating (especially high fructose fruits like apples, pears and grapes) I continued to read avidly about nutrition and was attracted to the paleo/primal way of eating that basically encompasses foods that we would have eaten back when were cavemen. The thinking behind this is that simply our bodies do much better if we eat foods that we were designed to eat, namely meat, fish, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds and some berries. It is not certain how long we have been eating grains but in the grand scheme of human evolution it is a short time and many people may not be well adapted to them. We are certainly not designed to eat all the processed foods now found in the modern supermarket and the prevalance of obesity and chronic disease today speaks for itself. I have a personal reason for wanting to stay as healthy as possible and live as long as I can as I had children relatively late in life (I was 40 when I had twins in 2002) so I want to be around as long as possible for them.

So, I began to adopt some of the paleo principles eating fresh foods whenever possible and very little processed foods. The major change for me was embracing fats which I had always avoided as I was brainwashed into the low fat high wholewheat carb diet that most people in the West eat today (and the one that is recommended by governments and health authorities). The big question was could I cut out grains? Fresh bread, breakfast cereals, sandwiches, scones - all foods I loved and enjoyed. Well so far so good, I haven't eaten grains for about 6 months now except for an occasional tiny piece of birthday cake now and again when it would look really churlish to refuse (more about the 80/20 rule in a future post).

So what drove me to finally cutting out all these foods I liked but decided not to eat? It was finding out that actually all these starchy carbs simply turn into sugar in the digestive system and the body treats them like any other sugar and raises insulin levels to deal with them. This constant assault on our pancreas to produce more and more insulin is what causes type 2 diabetes and leads to inflammation which in turn leads to disease. I was also motivated by looking lean and attractive into my fifties!

Since giving up grains and processed foods I have felt better, looked lean and my stomach is now flat (well as flat as it's ever going to be considering I carried twins to 37 weeks gestation!!). I wasn't really overweight before but did have cellulite on my thighs which has gone, and had the start of middle aged spread around my stomach which has also gone.  And the best thing is that I can maintain low body fat whilst never being hungry. So a win win situation!

Next post will discuss how to make a start on a paleo/primal way of eating if you want to have a go. Why not try it for 10 days and see how it goes?

Sunday, 15 July 2012

So what is a healthy diet anyway? Part 1

This is a tricky question which is open to many different points of view. Everyone has their opinions on this often based on government guidelines or information they have picked up from the media or organisations such as Weight Watchers or Slimming World if they have been on diets (and according to the BBC more than 1 in 4 adults are trying to lose weight at any one time in the UK).

Up to about two years ago I would have considered myself a very healthy eater. Lots of fruit and vegetables (I used to graze on fruit most of the day in between meals), wholemeal bread and pasta, beans and legumes and some meat and fish. I ate low fat versions of dairy products and didn't eat any thing I knew to contain a high fat content such as avocados and nuts. So I should have been my ideal weight and very healthy. However I was about 7lbs heavier than I am today, had cellulite around my thighs and had some very bad stomach problems such as gas, bloating and pain. Some evenings I would be so bloated I looked like I was expecting twins again (I actually had twins in March 2002!).

I began to search for answers to my stomach problems and came across some discussions about fructose which is found in sugary foods and fruits and how this can feed a yeast called candida which lives in the body but can overgrow causing IBS type symptoms. As I didn't eat much in the way of sweets I suspected it might be the amount of fruit I was eating that was causing my stomach problems. I cut out the fruit (I found an amazing book which details how damaging fructose is to health and lists foods both high and low in fructose which helped me to minimise the fructose in my diet.

I immediately began to see a vast improvement in my IBS type symptoms. Today I can eat small amounts of fruits, usually on their own or mixed into yogurt and usually low sugar fruits like berries without any problem. I steer clear of apples, pears and grapes and most dried fruits. I make sure I never eat fruit immediately after a meal too as doing so can cause the fruit to ferment on top of the other foods in the meal as fruit is digested much more quickly than other foods.

Whilst researching the low fructose diet I began to see links to paleo and primal type diets. The next post will discuss these diets and why I decided to try them out and what impact they have had on my weight and health.