Eating the right food for your job – findings from the ‘pod-uctivity’ report

These days I do take a keen interest in diet and nutrition, so I was interested to receive a new report from Pod, London’s  healthy food-to-go chain of restaurants. The report looked at what to eat and when to eat it. Crucially, it also looked at how different jobs have different demands and matched them with the right foods to support productivity. The report identified four key job sectors: Creatives, Office Angels, High Flyers and Key Workers.

Being in PR, I fall into the Creatives category – here is just some of the nutritional advice the pod report had for me:

  • Breakfast is a must, containing some slow- release carbohydrate to provide energy to fuel the brain and lift the energy when needed. A mix of oats, nuts and seeds is a great start to the working day.
  • High sugar, high fat diets should be avoided as this will cause sluggishness. These types of foods may ‘accidently’ creep in if eating is not planned, especially after a brainstorming session when brain activity and stress levels have been high. Instead have a slow release carbohydrate snack before and a handful of antioxidant rich blueberries after. It might not sound as appetising as a quick fix chocolate bar, but it will work wonders.
  • Carbohydrates should be reduced through the day and eating late at night avoided, include foods high in tryptophan with dinner to calm the brain and aid sleep.
  • Ensure pantothenic acid intake is adequate to help deal with stress; chicken salad with avocado, a sprinkle of seeds and a heaped tablespoon of whole grains is a perfect stress-busting lunch.

I found it really interesting, I’m traditionally a breakfast denier (since my fast days have taught me to hold off as long as possible without eating). But perhaps when I finally start to feel hungry, usually around 11am, I should be choosing something like a healthy porridge.

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Pod’s Peanut Butter Power Porridge

I’m not a Londoner, so don’t have the option to get my nutritional fix on-the-go with pod but I do make regular trips to the capital. So next time I’m there I’ll certainly be taking the report’s recommendation and popping into the nearest pod for something healthy and delicious. The new menu sounds great (you lucky Londoners)…I particularly like the sound of: Salmon and Seaweed Caviar Scrambled Eggs, Peanut Butter Power Porridge, a Vitamim Hit Blitz and the Falafel Shawarma Wraps!

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Pod’s Salmon and Seaweed Scambled Eggs 

Pod’s founders say their menu reflects their customers ‘ambitious, health concious and smart’ and I have to say I agree. Check out the report for yourself here.

Clean eating, fasting and fear

Maybe it’s just the January effect but I really have been making more of an effort to eat clean. By that I mean, real, whole food and ingredients and eating less processed products.

The scary headlines around sugar have contributed to me wanting to consume less processed goods too. I knew sugar was in everything but I hadn’t realised just how bad for me it was.

The right thing to do…eat clean

Ultimately, I know eating cleaner is the right thing to do. Of course it’s best for my body
and my health to be eating natural products rather than foods with crazy ingredients that have been through all kinds or processes to make them low fat or ‘healthy’. I actually quite enjoy clean eating too. Plus, working from home means it’s not too difficult for me to adopt either, as I don’t need to eat ‘on the go’ and always have a fridge full of fresh ingredients nearby. So, why I haven’t I fully embraced clean eating? Why do I struggle to do it when it should be so straightforward for me? Why am I still reaching for the diet snacks on a regular basis?

I’ll tell you why. It’s the calories – which I know is a ridiculous thing to say but I’ll try to explain how I feel. Many of you will know I’m a 5:2 diet convert (perhaps evangelist might be a better word!), it’s flexible, it fits my lifestyle and I have had great results with it.  5:2 is way of life rather than a diet, it’s something you stick to for life (where possible) and I certainly see it that way…My Fitness Pal is probably the most used app on my phone. This means that calorie counting is frequently at the forefront of my mind.

Calories, health and fear…

Essentially after doing 5:2 for more than a year, I equate being ‘healthy’ with not going over 500ww calories in a day. I feel positive, pleased and even proud when I do a 500 calorie day successfully – knowing I’m keeping my body balanced for when I go out at the weekend for dinner and wine. And the truth is, until recently, I haven’t much cared how I got my 500 calories – as long as I didn’t go over this number. So a typical fast day would involve foods such as Weight Watchers chocolate wafers, fat free yoghurt, sandwich thins, reduced fat cheese, Birds Eye vegetable fingers or fish fingers…and other processed foods that offer a low calorific value.

So imagine how disheartening and hard I find it when a homemade smoothie of fresh fruits and greens has 250+ calories in it! On a fast day that would be a massive indulgence and half my calorific food allowance. Likewise with snacking on nuts and seeds – they pack a whole load of calories. So often I end up opting for a diet cereal bar instead because it’s easy, it tastes good and has less calories – and what’s not to like about that?! You see my problem with clean eating now…for a calorie counter it’s hard to get your head around how eating more calories could be good for you. Quite frankly, it scares me and makes me feel like I’ll put weight on because I’m consuming more calories. Is this just me? I don’t think I can be alone in this fear can I?

Can I re-train myself?

Seeing those calories tot up on My Fitness Pal is very off-putting – even if the calories come from healthy, clean choices. For so long, weight loss and maintaining this was my goal, soMFP all I cared about was cutting calories, without a thinking about nutrition. I have ignored how much sugar or sweetner is in my diet snacks or what the effect on my mood or performance might be of eating processed foods. I really need to address this – but how do I re-train my mind and the way I think about food and health? Perhaps if I really gave clean eating ago and felt the health and wellbeing benefits of this, I’d be converted? It’s a good idea but the truth is, it’s a big step I’m too scared about putting weight on to embrace this wholeheartedly, which is awful to admit. It’s just hard to change when I know the low fat, processed, diet snacks route has worked for me from a weight loss point of view.

So for now, I’m trying to be a bit more balanced and go for a gradual approach. My fast days will still inevitably feature some diet snacks to help me stick to my target calorie allowance – but I will try to incorporate ‘cleaner’ snacks and on my more relaxed days I’ll try and fully embrace clean eating without thinking about the calories.

At least, that’s the plan. Does anyone share my thoughts and fears? I’d love to hear from anyone with an opinion on cleaning eating, fasting or any of the issues above!

6 Things no-one tells you about weight loss

I never had all that much weight to lose, just a stone or so…easily acquired when you’re eating out a lot and partial to cheese and wine! However, last year I did manage to shift it with a switch to the 5:2 diet, intensified for the first few months.

Sticking to this straightforward way of life and eating only 500 calories for two days of the week means I have kept my excess stone off for over a year. Where am I going with this rather uninteresting tale? Well, successfully losing weight does feel great but there are a few surprises no-one tells you about…

1) You miss your appetite

A large pizza at Pi Woodfired in Winchester!

The 5:2 way of life and eating a little less does rather seem to shrink your your stomach and your eating capabilities! Bizarrely, I miss being able to eats lots of food. I used to be a massive fan of grazing, I still am, but it really fills me up! When you know you’re going to get full pretty quickly you really have to pick your food carefully.

2) You can’t choose where you lose weight from

It’s true, you might just want to shift a little from around the middle but you end up losing it from everywhere, even places you didn’t want to slim down! If you’re a woman, you can expect to lose hips and bust, not something I was prepared for!

3) Some of your favourite outfits won’t look so good on any more

Partly due to point number 2 and a changing shape, dresses, favourite jeans and tops can all not fit as they once did. Some clothes will look better on but some you’ll have to say goodbye to. It is an excuse to go shopping though!

4) Your shopping habits increase!

shopping bags, clothes shopping

Yes point number 3 brings you every excuse you’ll ever need to go clothes shopping. Whether it’s buying old favourites in smaller sizes or embracing bold new trends now that you feel more confident. You may have lost weight but your credit card bills will be getting fatter!

5) The fear of re-gaining weight is ever present

weighing yourself on the bathroom scales

While it feels great to be slimmer, there’s always a faint glimmer of worry that you might gain the weight back. One too many takeaways and you could be back where you started, ruining all your hard work. If you’re being healthy it probably won’t happen (beyond a couple of easily shed-able pounds), but the fear lingers in a way you never expected. I guess maybe it’s the motivation to stay healthy?

6) You become a bit boring

calorie counting is a little boring

Yes, like people who give up drinking or get really serious about the gym, you’ll lose a little bit of your fun self. Maybe it’s not true for everyone but having to be sensible about what you eat does make you a little dull and even annoying, in my opinion. Loving food and being adventurous with it is part of who I am…I like farmers markets, day time drinking, brunch and cheese on everything! So to have to reign these elements of my character in, sometimes doesn’t feel quite right. Like everything though, I suppose it’s all about balance. It’s important to get the calorie counting Vs living life balance right and I guess I’m still adjusting…and slightly mourning those carefree, eat-anything days!

So there you have it – some of the unexpected results of weight loss! This isn’t intended to put anyone off their weight loss goals, it’s just a one year on reflection from me I suppose. Would love to hear your thoughts on losing weight too…

xXx

Fabulous Frozen Food from COOK

Recently I was lucky enough to be sent some frozen ready meals from COOK – creators of ‘remarkable food for your freezer’. I was intrigued and immediately visited their website where I learnt that COOK chefs simply prepare tasty meals using the same ingredients and technology that you would at home, freeze them and deliver. So simple – but what a brilliant business idea! It reminds me of how mums’ send students off to uni with a hearty homemade lasagne for the freezer and I liked that, it’s just a lovely concept I think.

What appealed to me was the fact the meals from COOK really were homemade and not full of numerous, nasty ingredients that you can’t understand.

I was thrilled to be offered some samples to try, after a good browse I settled on some of the OMG Pots – a range of  smaller meals with less than 400 calories and 14g of fat each. With dishes like Prawn Tom Yum, Moroccan Spiced Chicken and Japanese Salmon they sounded delicious and seemed ideal for a fast day dinner or tasty lunch on a normal day. Needless to say I was very excited on a wet and windy Tuesday to receive this package full of scrummy sounding meals….

A bundle of frozen meals from COOK

A bundle of frozen meals from COOK

That evening I sampled the Moroccan Spiced Chicken and served up the Chicken Pad Thai to my other half Tom. We both really enjoyed our dishes, what I liked was how full of flavour my dish was. I’m a fan of anything Moroccan spiced and this didn’t disappoint. It was warming, tasted fresh and yes, home-cooked. It being under 375 calories was a nice bonus too! Tom polished off the Pad Thai pretty quickly, so that was a definite winner as well. I will add, these are quite small meals and probably more suited to lunch than an evening meal but for a quick, light dinner they would be perfect.

I couldn’t believe how simple it all was to have a nice,  nutritious, homemade meal. I just popped them in the microwave and ping, done!

Terrible photo! But the Moroccan Chicken really was lovely

Terrible photo! But the Moroccan Chicken really was lovely

It’s not just healthy, light meals on offer from COOK either, there’s a whole range of tempting sounding meals from classic fish pie, to curries, family meals and food for entertaining. I’m certainly going to be trying out a few of the other dishes! Whilst I do enjoy my attempts at cooking from scratch, it isn’t something that’s possible every night of the week and it’s great to have a nutritious, natural option in the freezer for these occasions. And for people who live alone, I think COOK meals are a simply a fantastic idea – no need for gross supermarket ready meals that costs a bomb, look nothing like the picture and are full of unrecognisable ingredients!

If you’d like to find out more about COOK and the meals they offer visit there website: www.cookfood.net.

Thanks to the guys at COOK for the samples and introducing me to the range!

5:2 Favourites

Like many other people I’m following the 5:2 way of life, eating only 500 calories on two non-consecutive days each week. It’s flexible, achievable and seems to be working out well. You can actually feel relatively satisfied on 500 calories, you just need to pick the right things to eat – in fact it’s amazing how many pleasant things you can consume really. In this post I thought I’d share a few of my favourite things to eat on a fast day.

There are some mega low-cal recipes and meals you can prepare for dinner but for now I’m focusing on satisfying snacks and the type of things you might eat at your desk.

It’s no secret that I love popcorn, so a bag of sea-salted Proper Corn at 87 calories makes me so happy! It’s a decent sized bag too (not like those healthy crisps you get in tiny bags!)

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My love of cheese is also well documented, so these little Cathedral City Minis at 50 calories per piece are a deliciously creamy treat on a fast day.

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Okay, so it’s maybe not the freshest foodstuff but at 96 calories Ainsley Harriot’s Thai Chicken & Lemongrass soup is perfect for keeping in your desk drawer. I’ve tried many an instant soup and this definitely the most flavorful and tasty. Warm and fragrant, it really hits the spot sometimes.

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Fage Total strained 0% Greek Yoghurts are a yummy fast day win. They have about 140 calories, so a few more than some of the other fat free yoghurts out there – but the pot is bigger! The thick consistency makes me feel like I’m enjoying a full fat cream-like dessert. The plain variety is excellent with a few berries for breakfast.

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Jimmy’s Skinny Iced Coffee is a lovely fast day pick-me-up, it feels just like drinking some kind of full-fat frappe from a coffee shop but is only 36 calories per 100ml.

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Lastly, you can’t beat a boiled egg for simplicity and keeping you feeling full! If you can just bear to go without the soldiers, a boiled egg only sets you back about 70 calories.

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These are just a few of my go-to fast day foods that are quick to grab and enjoy during busy days and in the office. If you’re a 5:2 dieter I’d love to know what yours are…do tell.

I do have a few light and low calorie dinner suggestions to share as well but I’ll save these for a future post.

Right, time to get fasting after a bit of bank holiday excess! xXx

Healthy Seafood Lasagne

Here’s a very rough recipe for a hearty, but fairly healthy dinner I made earlier in the week. It’s a seafood lasagne!

Ingredients:

Tinned tomatoes
Reduced fat cream cheese
Mixed seafood (I used prawns, scallops, mussels and shrimps)
Creme fraiche
Dill (I used dried)
Lasagne sheets (I just used the standard shop bought variety)
Reduced fat cheddar cheese
Parsley (optional for a topping/garnish)

So all did was to fry the garlic in a little olive oil and add in the tinned tomatoes, followed by the cream cheese (about half of small tub) and mix them together. The sauce was a little pink in colour, but it tastes great. Once the sauce seemed thick enough I added the seafood in and made sure it was all well mixed.

Setting that mixture to one side, I then added some of the remaining cream cheese to the creme fraiche and mixed some dried dill. For extra creaminess you can add in a little ricotta here too

After that it was a simple case of layering the seafood mixture in baking dish, covering with lasagne sheets and repeating this to end up with a covering of lasagne sheets on the top. I then covered the top with the creme fraiche mixture and finished with a topping of the reduced fat cheddar and some chopped parsley.

Here’s the resulting dish straight out of the oven…

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My reduced fat seafood lasagne