5 Simple Ways to Feed Yourself with Kindness & Care

5 Simple Ways to Feed Yourself with Kindness & Care

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

What springs to mind when you think about self care?
Eating a delicious meal?  A relaxing yoga session?  Enjoying a massage or spa treatment?
Do you even think about self-care at all?

Finding time to look after ourselves can be hard, especially when other people depend upon our time and attention.  Yet we all have at least three opportunities for self-kindness and care every day: breakfast, lunch, and evening meal.

Maybe you’ve fallen into the habit of skipping meals or eating hurriedly between meetings and appointments.  Perhaps you don’t even care what you eat, so long as you refuel and can make it through the day.

Such unkind eating habits do more than deplete your body of nutrients and are worth exploring to detect any underlying causes.

Tiredness for example is often a reason for missed meals, but this will of course perpetuate the situation and worsen fatigue.  Feeling stressed by an over-filled schedule is another possible reason.  Exhausted lady holding her headDepending on who organises your schedule, dealing with this factor may mean having an honest conversation with your boss, or creating space in your own diary to eat each day.

Skipping meals forces your system to produce more stress hormones to support the levels of glucose in your blood that keep your muscles and brain working.  A short burst of stress hormones is easily dealt with, but ongoing stimulation can contribute to some nasty health issues including high blood pressure and gaining fat around your middle.

Eating too quickly can trigger all kinds of digestive problems: from indigestion and bloating, to pain, cramps, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms.

Learning (or re-learning) to chew food thoroughly can alleviate a lot of digestive discomfort, and even help with maintaining health weight balance.

To start a new simple habit of self-nourishment, kindness and care, try one or more of these 5 steps this week;

  1. Create time to sit and enjoy breakfast. This can be a small meal: a smoothie perhaps, or poached egg on sourdough toast.  Whatever it is, be sure to sit down and take ten minutes to chew thoroughly and enjoy your food.
  2. Prepare a large pan of soup and freeze in individual portions so you have ready-made lunches for the week ahead.
  3. Make a mug of your favourite herbal tea, sit somewhere peaceful for twenty minutes and savour the flavour.
  4. Buy a vegetable you’ve never cooked before and find a new recipe for it.
  5. Let the rainbow in by including 6 different colour fruits & vegetables each day. Choose 1 from each of these groups: red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple, and white.

 

Feeling inspired?  Do share your thoughts in the comments below, or over in the Facebook group – we’d love to hear from you!
And you might also like to read;

Depression & Anxiety – What to Eat to Feel Good

Does Food Affect Your Mood? Find out with this FREE Food, Mood and Movement Tracker #1SmallStep

Get Organised with this FREE 7-Day Meal Planner! #1SmallStep

7 Energy Boosting Breakfasts – #1SmallStep

 

 

 

Autumn Glow Soup

Autumn Glow Soup

 

gluten-free, dairy-free option, vegan option, vegetarian

Perfect for fending off colds as the weather turns damp and cold.  Makes enough for 4-5 servings.

Ingredients

500g carrots, peeled and diced

500g butternut squash, peeled and diced

Generous size piece of root ginger (about the size of the end of your thumb) peeled and grated

1 large onion peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Ground black pepper – to taste

1-2 teaspoons ghee / coconut oil

250ml passatta

1.5-2l vegetable stock

Optional: soya or cashew cream to drizzle

Melt the ghee or coconut oil in a large pan.  Once warmed, add the onion and cook gently for 5 minutes.  Add the spices and ginger and stir well.

Add all the vegetables and passatta, stir well, and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the stock, bring to the boil, then simmer until vegetables are soft.

Allow to cool, then blend till smooth.

Serve with an extra dash of black pepper and drizzle of soya or cashew cream.

 

Depression & Anxiety – What to Eat to Feel Good

Depression & Anxiety – What to Eat to Feel Good

Depression and anxiety can hit any of us at any time.  When it does, taking time to prepare food and eat well can be incredibly difficult.
You can feel overwhelmed by life, paralysed by anxiety, and have little interest in cooking and eating.

The irony is that certain foods and nutrients can support mental wellbeing.  Feeding your brain with mood-balancing nutrients is an important step on the path to recovery.  The key to making these changes is to keep them practical and manageable.

Take small sustainable steps, one at a time.

Let’s look at some of the important nutrients that support mental wellbeing, and easy ways to incorporate them into your daily routine.

Go with your gut

As always, we need to start with digestion.  If you’re not breaking down your food properly and absorbing the nutrients it doesn’t matter how many fancy foods and supplements you take – none of them will work.

The trillions of bacteria living in our digestive system – also known Lady's hands on her tummy, digestionas our microbiome – are the subject of ongoing research.  Our gut and brain are communicating constantly via nerve pathways and chemical messengers, many of which are produced or influenced by friendly gut flora (probiotics).

Many of the research studies looking at probiotics and mood balance are small scale but the results are promising and it is now known that certain species, including Bifidobacteria which thrive in the colon, can positively affect mood.

Small Steps to Big Changes

– Nourish your microbiome by including fermented foods 3-4 times a week.  Try sauerkraut, kefir (dairy or coconut water), natural plain yoghurt, or kimchi.  Do not use if you have histamine problems as fermented foods are rich in histamine.

– Swap raw foods for warm, cooked foods that are easy to digest; for example swap your lunchtime salad box for a vegetable soup or reheated leftovers.

– If you have ongoing digestive problems seek help!  Food sensitivities, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Coeliac Disease can all contribute to depression and anxiety, so find a BANT Registered nutrition practitioner in your area for personalised support.

Fats are your brain’s best friend

Your brain contains 25% of your body’s cholesterol, and an awful lot of polyunsaturated omega-3 fats.  If you’re still buying ‘fat-free’ and ‘low-fat’ foods you are doing your brain a great disservice – please stop!

This is because fats provide structure to our brain cells and help them communicate with each other.  Without enough of the right sorts of fats the messages between brain cells are like a bad mobile phone signal, all crackly and broken up, and there’s a knock-on effect on mood balance.

The long-chain omega-3 fats (most commonly found in oily fish) also have anti-inflammatory actions.  Increased inflammation is associated with several mental health disorders, including depression.  Inflammation is known to alter the balance of mood chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, and affect areas of the brain linked to motivation and perception of threat.  Not every person with depression has increased inflammation but it is a key factor for many, making anti-inflammatory foods part of a brain-health food plan.

Small Steps to Big Changes

– Include oily fish 2-3 times a week.  Think SMASHT – salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herrings and trout! A fish and omega 3 supplement capsules

– If you’re not keen on the taste of oily fish, sneak it into a fish pie or mix tinned sardines / mackerel in tomato sauce into a tomato based veggie sauce.

– Vegetarians & vegans: make sure to include pumpkin seeds and oil, flax oil, walnuts, or a blend like Udo’s Oil every day to top up your levels of Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA).  This converts to EPA and DHA (the omega-3 fats found in the brain) but a lot of it is lost in the conversion process hence the daily intake.

Proteins – brain building blocks!

Mood chemicals like serotonin and dopamine are made from amino acids, the little building blocks that make up proteins.  If you’re not eating enough protein you might not have enough amino acids to support the production of mood chemicals in the brain.

Small Steps to Big Changes

– Keep a Food & Mood diary for a week and see how often you eat good quality protein rich foods.

– Aim to include a palm-sized serving of protein with every meal: choose from eggs, good quality meat or fish, lentils, chickpeas, nuts and seeds.

Vitamin D

The sunshine vitamin is a big player for mental health.  There are vitamin D receptors throughout our brains, and low levels are thought to play a role in the development of SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Vitamin D levels are commonly low here in the UK thanks to the cloudy cool weather.  Do get your levels tested before jumping in with a supplement though, so you can get an idea of how much to take.  Ask for a test from your GP  or use the simple home test kit available from www.vitamindtest.org.uk 

Once you know your levels, you can decide whether to supplement or not.  Optimum levels (based on cancer research studies) are between 75-100nmol/l.

Magnesium, folate & B6 – mental health teammates

During times of stress we need to eat plenty of foods packed with these nutrients to give our nervous system extra back-up.  Magnesium and B-vitamins (particularly B6 and folate) are essential for mood chemical production and function, as well as supporting our energy levels.

Small Steps to Big Changes

– Go green.  Dark green vegetables are rich in both folate AND magnesium.  See if you can include 2 generous handfuls of green leafy veg everyday.  Try adding a big handful of baby spinach to a smoothie or omelette.  Serve broccoli or peas with your evening meal.  If you haven’t got the motivation to prepare fresh veg, buy the ready chopped frozen stuff – at this moment in time it is more important for you to eat the veg than worry about it being fresh.

– Include at least two B6-rich foods everyday: choose from avocado, chicken, Avocadoturkey, lentils, banana, carrots, brown rice, nuts, and seeds.

– Relax in an Epsom Salt bath.  Epsom salts are rich in magnesium sulphate which can be absorbed through your skin.  Make sure the water is comfortably warm, add a few drops of essential oil if you fancy, and soak for a good 20 mins.  Remember to ban everyone else from the bathroom so you can bathe in peace!

 

I hope you find these tips inspiring, and feel able to try them out one at a time.  Feeding yourself well is one of the kindest things you can do, and you are worth the extra ten minutes it takes to prep something tasty.

Hop over to the Facebook group too – it’s a friendly place to share conversations and challenges all about digestive health and mental wellbeing; find us at Nutrition in York

Photo by Jurica Koletić on Unsplash

 

 

 

How to make Ghee

How to make Ghee

Homemade ghee is low-cost, delicious, and super easy to make.

As a cooking fat it is stable at higher temperatures, and adds a unique flavour to curries and risottos, and pretty much any other dish requiring butter or oil!

Ghee is simply clarified butter: pure butter fat with virtually no protein residues left. This makes it tolerable for some people with mild dairy protein sensitivities – though I wouldn’t recommend ghee if you have a dairy allergy as it isn’t guaranteed to be 100% whey and casein-free.

Here’s a step by step guide to making rich, golden, more-ish ghee…

You will need:

250g block of organic unsalted butter

Pan

Sieve

A couple of pieces of cheesecloth to line the sieve

Glass jug to strain the ghee into

Jar to store the ghee; this can be an old jam jar or mason jar – anything with a secure lid

Let’s get started…

Dice the butter into small cubes and heat gently in the pan.

Butter diced into cubes in a pan

The melted butter will start to bubble and foam.  After a few minutes the bubbles will go down, and then start up again.

Melted butter foaming in a pan

After this second round of bubbling and foaming, you will see a dark reddish coloured residue at the bottom of the pan.  The ghee is now done!

Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes, then strain through the sieve into the jug.

Jug with sieve lined with cheesecloth

Carefully pour the ghee into your storage jar, and allow to cool to room temperature.

A jar of ghee

By now, the ghee will be starting to set.  Fasten the lid securely and allow it to set completely.  Your ghee is complete -enjoy!

 

Lunches On The Go – #1 Small Step

Lunches On The Go – #1 Small Step

Prepared vegetables for lunch

Midweek lunch has to be the most neglected meal.

Squashed in between meetings, deadlines, errands, phonecalls, school runs, it’s too often relegated to Boring Sandwich, ‘Meal Deal’ or Nothing.  Unless you’re in France, in which case take two hours off and dine like you mean it.

Let’s change this.  Let’s spark things up.  Let’s make lunch something you can’t wait to eat, and gets others drooling with envy…

First things first: preparation.  As with all good meals, the magic is in the prep.  Create a list of foods to purchase every week so you always have the necessary bits to hand to make lunches.  If you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it!  Think about vegetables, salad leaves, fruit, tinned fish, fresh meat (see below), and grains like rice, quinoa and buckwheat for salads.

Once you’ve stocked up, take a few minutes to think about the week ahead: how many lunches do you need to prepare?  Where will you be eating?  Does it need to be cold food, or are reheatable items an option?

Use the free  7-Day Meal Planner to capture ideas!

Lady eating lunch

These lunch ingredients can be made in advance and will keep in the fridge for days, giving you plenty of mix-and-match options;

 – Slow cooked meat: at the weekend I like to slow cook a chicken.  I use a slow-cooker so it’s merrily cooking away while I get out and about.  We eat some for Sunday dinner, and the rest is left for pack-ups.  Slow-cooked ham works well too, just shred it with forks and you have pulled-pork filling for pittas or salad.

 – Houmous: there’s a classic houmous recipe from my friend Gina, or try these varieties from Deliciously Ella.

 – Roasted vegetables: chop peppers, aubergine, courgettes, and fennel into chunks and roast in coconut oil for 30-40mins.

 – Hard boiled eggs

 – Pesto: this works well with cashews instead of pine nuts.

 –Homemade soups

 – Brown rice or quinoa: remember to cool rice quickly and store in the fridge until eating.

All prepped?  Now to spend 10mins each morning creating that knockout lunch*….

(*or dinner as it’s known here in Yorkshire.  Breakfast, dinner, and tea.)

Salad Box: rice or quinoa topped with a protein (shredded ham / hardboiled egg / houmous / fish) and a mixture of roasted vegetables and handful of salad leaves.  Dress with a drizzle of olive or flax oil, squeeze of lemon, and black pepper.

Sandwiches: not the boring ones.  Swap dull bread for good quality sourdough or for gluten-free options think creatively and use nori wraps, corn tortillas, or large butterhead lettuce leaves to hold the fillings.

Soups: my all time favourite lunch.  Enjoy with oatcakes and houmous or small chunk of good quality cheese.

Pasta Box: leftover pasta (regular or gluten-free) with pesto, roasted vegetables and cherry tomatoes.

Eating Out

This can be tricky when you have specific dietary needs like gluten or dairy free, but it is getting easier.  I was deliriously happy to discover a ‘Leon’ outlet at the motorway services recently and enjoyed a delicious wheat and dairy-free chicken and brown rice meal!

People eating lunch in a cafe

If you know your options are limited when eating out, carry some basics with you like trail mix and a piece of fruit so you can top up if there’s not much available.

Most city centres have a Pret and an M&S: Pret have a good selection of soups, salad boxes, chopped fruit, and snacky things like nuts and hardboiled eggs with spinach.  Marks & Spencer offer mixed grain salads, picnic sized cheeses, chopped fruit, nuts, and houmous pots.

Stuck at a tiny cafe in the middle of nowhere?  How about a baked potato, omelette, or soup.

Whatever your day holds, a nourishing lunch is essential to sustain your energy and wellbeing.  Symptoms of fatigue, irritability, anxiety, poor concentration and depression are all influenced by the foods we eat, so give your body it’s best shot at working well by feeding it with love and care.

Try these ideas and see what a difference they make to your life – do let me know via email or over in the Facebook group!

You might also like;

Does Food Affect Your Mood? Find out with this FREE Food, Mood and Movement Tracker #1SmallStep

Get Organised with this FREE 7-Day Meal Planner! #1SmallStep

7 Energy Boosting Breakfasts – #1SmallStep

 

PHOTO CREDITS: UNSPLASH