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A full three-course plant-based meal with your choice of dessert

Restrictions are easing, and you’ve decided to ask some friends over for dinner. 

Amazing!

How about you surprise them with a three-course plant-based meal?  

Lee, you’re crazy, who’s going to want to come to my house to eat something plant-based, let alone a three-course plant-based meal? Everyone will leave hungry! 

I know, I know, but I’d like to remind you that a plant-based diet, just like a plant-based meal, isn’t solely plants and vegetables; it’s based on plants. Do you see the difference?  

I believe consuming a diet based on plants has an abundance of benefits, including (but not limited to):  

  • Increased fibre which your gut loves.
  • A whole heap of antioxidants which are great for our skin and immune system.
  • A moderate and stabilised body weight.  

Sound appealing? 

I thought it might! 

I challenge you to create a plant-based meal for your loved ones (or just yourself – treat yourself!). If that idea terrifies you, remember, just because this meal is plant-based, it doesn’t mean you can’t include some non-plant-based ingredients in here too.

If you’re ready to prepare the easiest three-course meal possible, join me! 

Let’s start with the entree.

If you’ve ever tried traditional coleslaw and relate to any of the below:

  1. You hated it so much and vowed never to touch it again.
  2. You can’t eat anything else when it’s on the table because it’s that damn addictive.
  3. You are anywhere between A and B on the coleslaw spectrum.  

Then this is the salad for you. 

My Kaleslaw with a Creamy Sesame Dressing is fibre and sulphur-rich, making it great for our liver health and detoxification pathways. If you want the phytochemicals, antioxidants and naturally occurring vitamins of kale, without the bitterness of the leafy green, this is the answer! 

Oh, and don’t be fooled by the dressing name – it tastes like a traditional creamy dressing, but is packed full of whole ingredients like sesame, creamy cashews and sugar-free mustard.  

If you want to wow your friends, give my Kaleslaw a go. 

Kaleslaw with creamy sesame dressing

Serves 6 as a Side 

Slaw

  • 4 cups thinly sliced cavolo nero (Tuscan kale)
  • 2 apples, cut into very thin wedges
  • ½ cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 red capsicum (pepper), seeded and thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1 small carrot (optional), grated
  • parsley or micro herbs, to serve 

Creamy sesame dressing

  • 120 g (4 ¼ oz/¾ cup) raw cashews, soaked in filtered water for 2 hours
  • 40 g (1 ½ oz/ ¼ cup) sesame seeds
  • 50 ml (13/4 fl oz) apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar-free mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

To make the dressing, pulse all the ingredients in a food processor with a generous splash of filtered water until smooth.

Toss all the slaw ingredients except the herbs in a large bowl and stir through the dressing. 

Scatter over the herbs, and serve.

Okay, okay, it’s time for the main meal. 

I recommend trying my Vegan Lentil Moussaka on for size. This deliciously layered baked eggplant dish with lentils and a vegan cheese sauce will bring all the comfort and nourishment to the table. It puts a deserved spotlight on lentils, is plant-based and completely stodge-free. 

I know what you’re thinking, Lee, this sounds delicious, but this is only two courses – where’s the dessert?

Introducing: My Homemade Berry Crumble!

Made from nothing but whole natural foods, you can serve this crumble straight from the oven with a generous dollop of chilled yoghurt, and you’ll seriously impress the pants (not the literal pants – the emotional pants) off your family and friends. 

 

If you and your guests have the cake cravings (it’s a real thing), my Carrot Cake with Coconut Icing should be on the table. If you're a vegan, just substitute the eggs with 2 tablespoons ground or whole chia or flaxseeds soaked in 120 ml (33/4 fl oz) of water for 15 minutes.

This night is a celebration, and this cake is worth celebrating – but, just a warning, if you bake this for your friends, I guarantee every time you see your friends they’ll ask you for the recipe or expect you to bake it for them on the spot. Don’t come to me later and tell me how annoying it is that they do; I warned you :).

I hope you enjoy this full three-course plant-based meal. Let me know what you think in the comments section below. 

Lee 🙂

10 Ways to Instantly De-Stress in 2020

It’s been a stressful year for many. Being stressed on occasion is a natural emotion, and in small doses, can be helpful. However, there is nothing natural about 2020. Every week, it’s something new to be stressed about, and if left unchecked, it can cause some serious issues.

Luckily, there are some ways to lower your stress in 2020. Let’s look at some ways you can try.

Distract Yourself

The first way is to distract yourself from your stresses. If your mind is on the source of your stresses, then you’re going to feel worse. It’s important to find something to distract yourself with. Find a good TV show, book, video game, or something else that can help you relax and unwind. Try looking into a new hobby that can distract you.

With stress, it’s important that you try to solve whatever it is that’s causing it. However, if you feel over-stressed, it’s okay for you to distract yourself and come back later with a fresh mind.

Take a Deep Breath

“Breathe!” It’s a piece of advice that many people get to the point where it seems to have lost all meaning. However, it’s a good idea. If you feel overwhelmed, stopping everything and taking a nice, deep breath can make you feel much better. Exhale for a long time and picture your stresses leaving your body. Then, inhale and imagine new air purifying you. Whenever you feel over-stressed, taking a few breaths can improve how you feel quite a bit.

Go for a Run

Another way to de-stress instantly is to go outside and run, or exercise in some other way. When you run, it releases endorphins that boost mood, and when you are focused on your workout, you can ignore your stresses.

Eat Healthy

Many of us will turn to some ice cream when we are feeling stressed. There is nothing wrong with that in small doses, but always eating unhealthy foods can lead to you being more stressed. Instead, try to reach for some  healthy foods. Have some peanut butter and celery or some wholegrains. It can make you feel happier and you won’t feel as guilty eating them.

Practice Mindfulness

Another method you can try is mindfulness. This is a practice that has been common in many Eastern religions and has seen an increase in popularity in the West. Mindfulness involves staying in the moment and not worrying about the future. It can be a difficult order when our thoughts are so worried about what’s to come, but by taking a moment to observe the present, you can have fewer worries. Every one of every age can practice mindfulness and get some benefits out of it, so try it out and see how it works.

Drink Herbal Tea

Why not fix yourself a nice little herbal tea to help improve your mood? You can try peppermint, chamomile, or other teas designed to promote relaxation. Green teas are good for you too, but you may not want something with caffeine.

Take a Bath

Why not have a nice little bubble bath going whenever you feel stressed? Turn the lights low, put some nice music on, and take a hot bath as you focus on relaxing and not on the stresses of the day. If you still feel antsy, do it at night when you’re about to unwind. It can work wonders for you.

Eliminate the Source of Stress if Possible

The biggest way to de-stress is to avoid stressing in the first place. If your problems are fixable, then try to come up with a plan to solve them. For example, you may be stressed over a speech you have to make tomorrow. Rather than worry too much, practice it. If you have an essay due in a week, work a little bit each day and make sure that you aren’t cramming the night before. You’ll feel much better about yourself.

Write

Sometimes, expressing your feelings through art or writing can make you feel de-stressed instantly. Give it a try and see what it can do for you. You may be able to turn your stress into an awesome story.

Seek Help!

Finally, if you're stressed, a way to de-stress is to talk to someone about it. Some people may look to a friend, which can work out well. However, friends can only go so far. You may need to speak to a licensed therapist about your issues. By talking to a pro, it can lift a weight off your shoulders.

In these stressful times, many of us need a therapist who can be there without having to leave the house. Online therapy can be a solution to that. For more information, click here and see what it can do for you.

Three Simple Tips To Throwing an Eco-Friendly Birthday Party

Everyone loves a good birthday party and celebration. While certain traditions tend to define what usually happens at birthday parties, such as having balloons, decorations, and platters of finger food, there are plenty of ways to switch up these traditions to represent an eco-friendlier celebration, that is rewarding for guests and better for the world as a whole.

If you’re planning on throwing an eco-friendly birthday bash, why not consider the following alternatives for celebrating in a sustainable way?. Your guests will enjoy it and the planet will benefit from your kinder, greener approach.

1) Go Fresh and Healthy

Frozen food leaves an enormous carbon footprint on the environment in a variety of ways. First of all, the amount of fuel needed to transport frozen food across the world affects air quality negatively and works against environmental sustainability.

Other factors can have an adverse influence, including the need for temperature control and high storage times requiring more electricity. Rather than buying frozen food to heat up for a birthday party, go for fresh veggies, fruits or other food which can be purchased at fresh markets. Veggies like carrots or celery sticks are big hits at most parties, as they are easy to eat and go well with all sorts of dressings or dips. They also act as a healthier alternative and can help to promote healthy eating habits.

Speaking of healthier alternatives, you can also consider offering different kinds of drinks than the usual party drinks like soda or similar sugary beverages. Water filters such as berkey water filters remove harmful toxins that can often be found in regular water beverages and make for the ultimate, hydrating drink to have on hand at any kind of party. Alternatively, consider making fresh juice that uses fresh ingredients over frozen or processed ones to be extra eco-friendly.

2) Forget the Disposables

Often, birthday celebrations include the use of many disposable items, such as plastic tableware, non-recyclable decorations like streamers or balloons, and plenty of wrapping paper that will eventually be tossed out. These can be detrimental to the environment, as they’re often non-recyclable and made of materials that cannot break down properly. In fact, some plastic items can take up to 500 years to fully break down. That’s a whopping number of years!

Luckily, there are plenty of other options for tableware, decorations and wrapping material, that also offer a great chance to get creative. For example, why not try using old pieces of cardboard or construction paper for making party hats or party invites. You can additionally reuse old wrapping paper and tissue or use some old newspaper for a truly unique wrapping paper choice.

Even better, old fabrics can make for innovative and colourful party streamers! Finally, consider opting for balloon alternatives like pompoms, pinwheels or paper flowers, which can also either or be made or bought in-store or fresh flowers are even better. For tableware, purchase a cheap set of non-plastic cutlery, plates and cups, or those made of materials that can decompose easily, like bamboo.

3) Consider an Eco-Friendly Venue

Lastly, for the ultimate fun and friendly eco-conscious experience, look for an outside venue that can provide an exciting celebration experience. Plenty of nature spots, aquariums or parks offer birthday services and celebrations with hefty discounts. If you’re planning a kid’s party think of the added bonus of a birthday trip to a planetarium where kids can learn about the stars; a nature reserve can also lead to firsthand experiences with endangered species, or an educational boating trip can lead to introductions of new sea life. Not only will you and your attendees remain eco-friendly, but you can also make the birthday celebration educational and extra memorable!

If you want to stay local but remain eco-friendly, consider having your party in your backyard with eco-friendly games. Popular ones include arts and crafts using recyclable items like cardboard, using old newspapers to make a pinata, having a nature-oriented scavenger hunt or playing board game classics! Being outside will not use up electricity and promote an environmentally conscious atmosphere.

Having an eco-friendly birthday celebration does not mean having to sacrifice the fun of having a regular birthday party. My own thrifty bohemian wedding was an eco-friendly affair. Our life and belongings are pretty minimal and we needed those values to be reflected on the day, with everything second hand or homemade or able to be recycled in order for it to have the least amount of impact on the planet. You can read more about what we did on our $5k budget here.

There are plenty of ways to have a good time while remaining eco-conscious and help out both the Earth and the people inhabiting it!

Healthy Ways to Flatten the Curve from Too Much Covid Eating + My Café Style Smoked Salmon, Eggs and Asparagus

Let’s preface this by saying that health is so much more than a number on the scale or fitting into a particular dress size.

Health encompasses every facet of our being; our relationship with ourselves and with others, the foods we eat, our stress levels and the way we move. However, if you’ve found the curve that’s been the hardest to flatten is your waistline, and you aren’t feeling your best, then you’re unlikely to do all of the other activities that make up a healthy you. 

Attaining, and then maintaining, a healthy weight doesn’t happen overnight. The girl you see on your newsfeed who promises you she lost 30kg in two weeks by consuming this one supplement/following this exercise regime/cutting out one food group, is probably exaggerating the truth. Extreme diets aren’t enjoyable and sustainable. Ain’t nobody got time for that. 

So, how can you flatten the curve and lose weight sustainably and healthily?

  1. Let’s start with the most straightforward tip of all: drink more water. It’s likely if you’re reading this that you’re not drinking enough water. Go on, pick up a glass right now. I’m watching you. Don’t carry on reading until you’ve sipped water. Okay, good. Sometimes, we confuse hunger with thirst and eat when we’re just thirsty. While specific recommendations vary from person to person depending on weight, exercise and life stage, aim for approximately 2L.  

Prebiotic Tray Bake

  1. They were wrong when they said diamonds were a girl’s best friend – it’s fibre. Veggies are full of fibre and rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and they should be the star of the show the main portion on your plate. Load up on non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, zucchini (courgette), green beans, broccoli and asparagus. If you’re worried that the only thing that’ll be green is you with envy when you see what everyone else is eating, I’ve got a dainty salad that everyone will love. Enjoy it as an afternoon pick-me-up or as a side salad, and it’s served in a teacup; seriously, is there anything cuter? Click the link here for my Teacup Watermelon Salad

  1. This one may scare a few of you off, but it’s essential to be eating enough protein to lose weight. Protein is vital for building muscle mass, increasing your metabolism and satiation. Include a range of protein at every meal, including plant-based proteins such as chickpeas, lentils, edamame beans, and non-plant-based proteins like fish, eggs, lean meat and some dairy. If you’re looking for a protein-rich meal that’ll help you build muscle and not your waistline, try out my sautéed scallops with mushrooms and spinach

 

  1. We all know how vital movement and exercise is to lose weight. Incorporate a mixture of aerobic and resistance exercise for weight loss and maintenance, as well as healthy bones and longevity. Try to include moderate movement like walking and yoga daily, two days of resistance-style training like weight-training or Pilates and, if you’re up for it, a day or two of more vigorous activity, like a jog, a boxing class, or a dance class. Mixing up the way you move is great for your waistline and mental health too. 
  1. I believe everything is okay in moderation, so don’t be afraid of your favourite foods. If you deprive yourself of your favourite foods, you may end up overeating them when you have the chance (hello food baby!). Rather than looking at foods as cheat foods, let go of the negative self-talk and let yourself indulge on occasion guilt-free. When you do decide to eat calorically-dense foods, enjoy every mouthful and savour it slowly (no human shovels allowed). 

  1. Reward yourself differently. If you usually have ice-cream to celebrate a win at work, treat yourself to something not food-related, such as a massage, a night on the couch watching your favourite movies, a warm bath or even a foot soak. Or, if you’re looking for food to bring you comfort, have a go at journaling, calling a friend, making a big cup of tea or going for a walk – food shouldn’t be our go-to reward or comfort! 
  1.  Join my moderation revolution and promise me you’ll control your portions. While you can still enjoy delicious foods, it’s essential to look at the quality and quantity of what you’re eating. For those serious about losing weight, I recommend introducing intermittent fasting (or, if you want to be in the lingo, it’s IF) into your week. While traditional IF approaches involve reducing your calorie intake to 500 calories (2090 kilojoules) for women and 600 calories (2510 kilojoules) for men on two days per week, there are various approaches you can take to intermittent fasting. 

Whether you’re looking to get off the diet rollercoaster for good, keen to shed some kilos, increase your energy or reduce your inflammation, my Fast Your Way to Wellness program may be the option for you. The program will change the way you feel and the way you look, help you learn how to tune into your bodily cues and care for yourself the way you deserve! 

If you’re seeking lifelong health, intermittent fasting can be a powerful ally. With delicious options for breakfast, lunch and dinner for both fasting and non-fasting days, hints and tips, my book, Fast Your Way to Wellness is the perfect gift for you or a friend and will gently guide you along the fasting and feeling 10/10 path. 

For a sneaky insight into the book, I’m sharing my fast-friendly, protein-packed and delicious Café-Style Smoked Salmon, Eggs and Asparagus. Enjoy this meal at any time of the day (whoever said eggs are limited to breakfast foods was wrong). If you’re looking for more fast-friendly meals like this one, you’ll have to check out my Fast Your Way to Wellness Cookbook and 6-week online program here. 

Cafe-style smoked salmon, eggs and asparagus 

Serves 3

When you want to bring the fancy cafe breakfast into the comfort of your own home, here’s your recipe. Protein-rich eggs, chlorophyll-filled greens and delicious smoked salmon brimming with Omega-3s will provide a morning meal of stately standards. 

 Ingredients

  • 3 medium eggs
  • 150 g (5 1/2 oz) asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon dukkah
  • 100 g (3 1/2 oz) baby rocket (arugula)
  • 150 g (5 1/2 oz) smoked salmon 

 Dressing 

  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar-free mustard 
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives 
  • Celtic sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Put the eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water.  

Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and cover in iced cold water. Once cool, peel and halve. 

Meanwhile, cook the asparagus in a steamer over a saucepan of boiling water until just tender. 

Combine all the dressing ingredients and mix thoroughly. 

 Place the dukkah in a small bowl and dip the eggs in to partially coat. 

Arrange the rocket and smoked salmon on a plate, then top with the asparagus and eggs. Drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately. 

Give it a try and let me know what you think in the comments section below.

How to allergy-proof your living space

You’ve just walked into your home, and it’s almost perfect; the fridge is full; your countertops are spotless, and there’s not a shoe out of place. There’s just one thing wrong – you can’t stop sneezing! Your home has become a breeding ground for pollen and dust, and it feels there’s nothing you can do about it. Will the sneezing ever stop?

I’m here to tell you that it is possible to remove allergens from your home, identify your specific triggers and live a relatively symptom-free life. 

But first, what are allergies? 

Allergies occur when a person’s immune system treats a typically harmless substance as a threat to the body and produces an unnecessary response to the trigger.

While there is a whole load of allergies, the most common ones are allergies to food, insects, ticks, pollen, dust, grass and mould. Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is an antibody that’s produced by the immune system as a defence against any foreign substance. The body produces IgE antibodies specific to the trigger it’s trying to fight, releasing chemicals that can cause allergy symptoms.  

What are allergy symptoms? 

  • Chest tightness
  • Diarrhoea
  • Itchy or red eyes
  • Red rashes or hives
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Sneezing and an itchy, runny or blocked nose
  • Stomach pain
  • Swollen lips, tongue or face
  • Vomiting

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a fun time to me at all. 

Living with allergies has become common, but it’s not normal (there’s a difference).

Let me guide you through simple tips to help allergy-proof your home. 

  • Avoid the use of wood-burning fireplaces or stoves because the smoke can worsen respiratory allergies. 
  • Choose an air filter that has small-particle or HEPA filter. 
  • Clean cabinets and countertops thoroughly with detergent and water.
  • During seasons with a high pollen count, consider closing your windows. If you know you’re affected by pollen from grass, trees or weeds, there’s an app that can track your hay fever symptoms to help you manage your day. If you’re interested in getting daily pollen, weather and air quality reports for your location, consider downloading this free app on your smartphone.  
  • Ensure you wipe excess moisture from the fridge to avoid mould growth. Make sure you regularly clean the dripping pan and clean the rubber seals around fridge doors too. 
  • Get rid of any out-of-date or old food. 
  • Install and use an exhaust fan to reduce moisture while having showers or baths, and make sure you dry the tub after use. 
  • Keep animals out of the bedroom and bath them once a week to reduce the amount of allergen. 
  • Opt for easy-to-clean chairs, dressers and nightstands and avoid upholstered furniture. 
  • Remove items that collect dust, like your favourite knickknacks or tabletop ornaments.
  • Wash dishes daily, scrub the sink and faucets to remove mould and food debris. 
  • Wash your sheets, pillowcases and blankets at least once a week. Choose dust-mite-proof covers, and perhaps switch wool or feather bedding with synthetic material.
  • When using your stove, use a vented exhaust fan to reduce cooking fumes and reduce moisture. 

While allergy-proofing your place is a great start, identifying specific triggers can help you better manage the sneezes, sniffles and red noses. If you want to dive deeper into the cause of your allergy symptoms, why not consider an at-home allergy test

This is my at-home allergy test kit of choice. Discover what your body reacts to with a small blood sample, where they test 294 different allergens, including pollen, pets, mites, food, mould and more. This test precisely detects allergen-specific IgE with sophisticated technology.

I’d love to know – are you someone who suffers allergies? What do you do to manage your symptoms? Let me know in the comments down below!

What is Stress and Ten Ways to Help Manage It

Over the past few months, one thing that’s exponentially increased, along with the use of the phrase ‘unprecedented times’, is our global experience of stress.  

So, in a nutshell, what is stress?

Well, your adrenal system performs various functions, including producing the stress hormone cortisol. While cortisol has a terrible reputation, it’s needed it to keep us alive. Without cortisol, people from the paleolithic times wouldn’t run from tigers, and hipsters in Bondi wouldn’t run from dairy (sorry not sorry).

Cortisol is essential for regulating blood sugar, metabolism and cognitive function; cortisol keeps you going. The problem with cortisol, like most things, is when you have too much of it. Chronic cortisol can send your body into overdrive, weakening your ability to function daily, impacting your immune and digestive system, as well as your hormones. Stress can also negatively impact your mental health.

So, what’s the best way to deal with stress? Don’t worry; it’s not time to book yourself into a 10-day silent fasting retreat, perform organic ceremonial grade cacao ceremonies under the new moon or wake up at ridiculous-o’clock to go to a yoga class (though those things can be lovely and therapeutic in their own right).

I genuinely believe that relieving stress is a daily practice. While there are so many things out of our control, empower yourself to control what you can #thingsvirgossay. We can be present, go slow and do something every day to manage our stress.

Let’s chat through some of my favourite ways to manage stress.

Mindfulness Activities

I believe walking is one of the most therapeutic exercises you can do for your mind and body. I try to start every single day with a walk. If I’m walking alone, I’ll try point out something that I can hear, smell, feel and see. I can listen to the wind rustle the trees, smell my neighbour’s new banana bread, feel the ground beneath my feet and see leaves on the floor. This exercise awakens your senses and keeps you in the present. If you’re in a moment of stress while at your desk, doing this activity sitting down will only take a few moments and is a great way to bring you back down to earth.  

It’s easy to hold tension in lots of different places in the body, including the shoulders, neck, jaw and abdomen. If I’m feeling overwhelmed and like my body is stiffening because of it, I love doing a body scan meditation.

While there are beautiful body scan meditations on various apps, let’s just run through a basic version right now. With your eyes closed, think about your feet; each toe, the back of the foot and then your ankle. Slowly focus on each area, moving up the body until you reach the top of your head. If you feel the tension in a specific body part, visualise that tension and then let it go. This activity can take a few moments and is excellent for tuning in to your physical body.  

If my stomach ties itself up in knots, I’ll do a simple tummy massage, which is excellent for relieving stress and anxiety and muscle aches and pains. You can read all about self-stomach massage here. Using oil in the Ayurvedic practice of “abhyunga” can also help to get deep into the muscles and promote relaxation.

Based on your personal Ayurvedic constitution or dosha, you can read more about Ayurveda here in my book Eat Right for Your Shape, various oils can be used to balance the body. 

  • Vata Dosha: sesame, avocado or almond oil
  • Pitta Dosha: olive, coconut or ghee
  • Kapha Dosha: flaxseed or sesame 
  • Tridoshic Oil: Jojoba oil

Try the self-care tummy massage for anxiety here.

2-minute stress less activities 

When you’re in a rush and need some calming down stat, the following are great to bring you back to the present and calm down the stressors:

  • Box breathing: Exhale completely through your mouth. Then close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 4. Exhale completely through your mouth, for a count of 4. Hold for 4 seconds at the bottom, and then repeat. 
  • Tense and release: tense all of your muscles for a count of 5, and then release.
  • Visualisation: picture a place where you can be relaxed. With your eyes closed, visualise this place. Use all of your senses to help bring the feelings that arise when you’re in this place. Make it a mini-vacation!

Useful Apps

While there are a gazillion apps available for meditation, these are some of my favourites:

  • Headspace: promotes a consistent mindfulness practice with targeted meditations led by a former monk. 
  • Insight Timer: an app featuring guided meditation by a variety of practitioners, calming music and expert talks. 
  • Calm: full of sleep, calming and relaxation meditations. 
  • Smiling minds: a meditation app developed by a team of psychologists to boost calmness and clarity. 

Lifestyle Tips

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but over consuming caffeine can wreak havoc on our cortisol levels. If you do drink coffee, I recommend having one coffee a day before midday. Great alternatives to coffee are home-made chai teas, dandelion tea and herbal teas. 

Another tip I encourage you to do is switch off your social media a few hours while you rise in the morning and before bed to help you wind down. If I feel like I’m getting into the habit of checking my phone too often, I’ll limit my screen time on my phone, so it locks me out of the apps once I’ve hit my designated time limit. It’s a powerful tool in self-control! 

To regulate blood sugar levels, and monitor your stress, nourish yourself throughout the day. Are you looking for foods to elevate your mood? I think you’ll like this blog here

I recommend seeking guidance from a health care professional, and getting support from trusted friends, family or loved ones, too.

Tasty Toppers to Boost Your Nutritional Needs

Today I want to talk about how to top your favourite dishes (or any dish really) with healthy toppers that can add to your nutritional quota.

Not only does adding toppings supercharge the flavour of your meals, but it can also increase the health benefits. I think you’ll find once you start topping, there’s no stopping! 

So, do you need to top every salad with toppings?

Well, no, but let’s think of a typical Wednesday night. You’ve just come home to an empty fridge, and, I mean, who goes grocery shopping on a Wednesday? You settle on making something simple enough for dinner, like my Bunker Baked Beans on Toast or Delicious Pantry Pasta, and you’re looking for a side salad. You find a few lettuce leaves, a limp looking carrot and a tomato that needs to be used today otherwise it’ll be in the compost bin tomorrow. Cue: tasty toppers.

Sprinkling tasty toppers can take your side salad, dinner or porridge from meh to a-meh-zing in a flash.

You look after the bottom, and these will look after your top. It’s time to stock up your pantry with delicious and belly-friendly toppers.

These additions will take your lunch-bowl from satisfactory to satisfying and they are ingredients that you may already have in your pantry!

First up, Apple Cider Vinegar: is it really worth all the hype? Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which aids in digestion, and has an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and alkalizing impact. It’s been used as a remedy for digestion in traditional medicine for centuries. Apple Cider Vinegar, or ACV, as the cool kids on the block call it, will give your soup a kick up the flavour profile, for that just-off-the-stovetop feeling. ACV makes a sneaky appearance in my Pumpkin, Mushroom and Sage Brown Rice Risotto here.

Next up, Celtic Sea Salt: a lot of people are salty about salt because, in excessive amounts, it can increase your blood pressure. Does this mean you should cut it out altogether? Absolutely not. A pinch of Celtic sea salt is rich in minerals, helps maintain healthy blood pressure and is essential for nerve and muscle function. You can bring in a mini pot of sea salt to enhance the flavour of your favourite soup or salad. Many sea salt brands come in portable tins and containers. 

Chia seeds: Ah, chia seeds. Chia puddings made the rounds a few years back, and I’m sad that they’re slowly being forgotten about; just because it’s not as trendy anymore, it doesn’t mean they’re not as good for you. I stand with chia seeds. Where was I? Oh yes, chia seeds! They offer an excellent source of essential fats, and they do wonders for our digestion. Uniquely, they’re a complete vegan protein, which means they contain all of the amino acids. Sprinkle them onto breakfast cereals, salads and soups, or use them in muffins as an egg replacer.

Cinnamon is a wonder-spice that was traditionally used as a carminative for gastrointestinal complaints. Cinnamon can help promote insulin release and enhance insulin sensitivity, as well as reduce inflammation in the body, helping to regulate blood sugars and solve sugar cravings. This rich and warming spice goes all over my sweet meals, but can also be used to balance the richness of savoury meat meals. 

Are you ready to be bold? Cracked pepper! Grind bold flavours onto your lunch bowl and wave goodbye to tasteless paper pepper packets for good. I love adding cracked pepper to almost every meal to add a little bit of pungency and texture. Pepper also contains a constituent called piperine, which has traditionally been used for centuries as a digestive aid. Let’s push it with pepper; Ooh, baby, baby! 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, you know there’s nothing a little oil can’t fix. Extra virgin olive oil is one of my favourite oils to cook with, boosting the anti-inflammatory properties of anything you’re eating. Filled with gut-healing fats and benefits for the immune system, extra virgin olive oil is something I consume on the daily. New research shows extra olive virgin oil keeps healthy properties when used for cooking, contrary to popular belief.  I also drizzle EVOO on salads, on top of soups, and to help cook my Tray Baked Salmon with Pumpkin and Avocado Mash here.

Dulse flakes, there’s nothing dull about them. I like to think of dulse flakes as sprinkles of fibre-rich goodness and iodine; essential for healthy thyroid function and a healthy nervous system. I shake shake shake this mellow sea vegetable over mashes or soups for an extra layer of seasoning on any and all savoury dishes. 

Fulvic Humic Concentrate: humic and fulvic acids are natural organic plant substances that do wonders for your metabolism. Fulvic Humic Concentrate supports the integrity of the gut lining by strengthening tight junctions while replenishing the gut microbiota. It’s rich in minerals, containing over seventy trace minerals. These flavourless liquid drops can help if you’re suffering from bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, gas or leaky gut. I top my water daily with up to 6 drops, and I’ve certainly noticed the difference. 

Hemp Seeds: Hemp seeds are an easy salad, pumpkin soup or porridge topper, full of alpha-linoleic acid and insoluble dietary fibre which is a saviour for our digestive system.

Gee, I love ghee. Ghee is clarified butter that allows our bodies to absorb fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamin A, D, E and K. Ghee is also full of plenty of vitamins itself, including vitamin K2, which is essential for the health of our bones and teeth. Ghee is terrific for our gut and cardiovascular health too. Ghee is my go-to when it comes to cooking Indian food, like my Eggplant Bharta and Indian Dosas

In my eyes, pumpkin can almost do no wrong (oh, except for pumpkin spice lattes, they’re a little wrong), especially its seeds. Pumpkin seeds, known as pepitas, are rich in zinc, which is vital for our nervous system, and are linked to a reduction of stress and anxiety. Zinc is also a key player when it comes to our immune health, so perfect for sniffle season. I sprinkle pumpkin seeds on pretty much, well, everything, but they do a play a central role in my Homemade Berry Crumble

Tahini is made from sesame seeds that have been soaked and crushed, and tahini is one of my favourite cupboard essentials. My garlic tahini drizzle is a show-stopping, drool-worthy addition to any salad. Feast on the recipe here. Tahini is so wonderful because it contains a high amount of calcium, as well as omega-3 and 6, which can all be hard to find on a dairy-free diet. Spread tahini on crackers or use it on every salad you ever make. Seriously, I won’t judge.  

Golden Gut Blend: Do you believe in magic? I have a sprinkle of gold magic that grants my body wishes! My Golden Gut Blend, full of diatomaceous earth, organic turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper, provides powerful medicinal properties that can help reduce bloating and improve digestion. I sprinkle it on my eggs and avo, put a whole heap of it in my nice cream and add it to my porridge or I make these delicious Golden Gut Granola Clusters. Who says magic doesn’t exist? 

Wheat-free tamari: A gluten and wheat-free alternative to soy sauce, wheat-free tamari is a naturally fermented flavour-enhance for all of your favourite soups and mashes. If you watched MasterChef this year, you’d remember the obsession with the umami flavour profile; tamari is just that. It’s a little less salty than regular soy sauce but can be used in Asian and non-Asian cooking to add a full, savoury flavour to your dishes. 

Nutritional Yeast Flakes: a sprinkling of cheesy-flavoured yeast flakes will move you one step closer to creating the lunch bowl of your dreams. These bright mustard-yellow flakes make a fantastic natural flavour enhancer. Loaded with B vitamins (a little less than 1 tablespoon supplies the adult recommended daily intake of vitamin B12), amino acids and minerals, they can be used in cooking, as a condiment or warm beverage. Because the yeast is no longer living, it does not feed yeast overgrowth in the gut, making it gut-friendly. They can be purchased from health food stores or online. They’re particularly fabulous when cooking for the dairy-free, so give them a go in my Vegan Lentil Moussaka here or my Cheese Kale Chips here for a snacky snack. 

Love Your Gut Powder: If you’re looking for the ultimate gut-loving topping, you can’t go past my OG - Love Your Gut Powder. It’s no exaggeration to say that Love Your Gut Powder changed my life, and it’s a gift I feel honoured to share with you all. It gently cleanses the gut, boosts energy, is rich in many a mineral, including silica and helps digestive complaints; anything from flatulence to bloating to parasites. Whatever you need, Love Your Gut is your go-to. I love sprinkling it on my juices and smoothies, and dusting some onto my meals like this Sweet Potato, Broccoli and Ham Soup.

What can top that? 😉 

Lee xo

Spooktacular Avocado Toast for Halloween

There's only one trick to making these Dracula and Frankenstein treats and that is to spend extra time smashing the avocado!

They're simple for the kids to make (get mum or dad or caregiver to help with the chopping) and they make a dreadful addition to your bootiful Halloween party.

All you need is:

  • 2 slices of bread toasted for face
  • 2 sheets seaweed for hair and mouth
  • 2 cashews for ears
  • 1 TBS fresh mozzerella for eyes
  • 3 blueberries 
  • 1 small Roma tomato (ends cut for eyes)
  • 1 small capsicum 
  • 1 pumkin seed kernel for nose

Method

Toast the bread, meanwhile smash the avocado in a bowl 

Smooth avocado over the toast

Cut out the Dracula and Frankenstein hair and teeth

Cut two circles of mozzerella for eyes

Slice capsicum for mouth and fangs

Once all the ingredients are prepared decorate as you like!

Happy Halloween!

Lee xo 

Let’s Simplify Weight Loss + Optislim with OptiBiome Review

To effectively lose weight, it’s essential to look at every facet of our health; our digestive system, stress levels, exercise regime and diet.

So, what are my simple weight loss tips?

  1. Drink more water. Drinking water can increase feelings of fullness and bring overeating to a halt. Studies show that drinking water may promote weight loss in overweight women.1
  2. Reduce your intake of added sugars, as they’re associated with increased weight gain, as well as a heightened risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.2
  3. Speaking of sugar, let’s cut back on the refined carbohydrates too – think white pasta, white bread and white rice. Instead, go for the whole version whenever possible, like brown rice, whole oats and spelt.
  4. Aim for at least 30 grams of fibre a day to improve the body’s response to insulin, increase fullness and help out the ol’ digestive system. Fibre keeps up full, which means we’re less likely to reach for the chocolate and chips… and ice-cream… and burgers… and pizza.3
  5. Incorporate a mixture of aerobic and resistance exercise to support healthy body weight and mental health, too.4
  6. Sleep is highly underrated when it comes to weight loss, but is just as important as food and exercise. Poor sleep can increase our hunger hormones, increasing our consumption of energy-rich but nutrient-poor foods.5 Aim for eight hours of sleep a night.

You’ll be well aware that the ‘gut’ is now regarded as the last frontier of the body, with trillions of bacteria swarming in there. We're only beginning to fully understand the importance of healthy, balanced and happy gut, and significance of the gut/brain axis.

As we now know, the health of our gut contributes to our ability to gain or lose weight. When the microbiome is in balance, it can help control our appetite and battle hunger cravings effectively; when it’s out of balance, we can feel more stressed, hungry and tired (I’m looking at you, 3 pm sugar cravings). Prebiotics are positively associated with weight loss and help support the gut by promoting the growth of probiotics. Who doesn’t want to kill two birds with one stone?

If you’re looking for a healthy and maintainable approach to weight loss (that doesn’t involve eating air for three weeks straight), I’ve just discovered a new product which can help. OptiBiome is a patented formula created by Stephen O’Hara, a scientist and microbiologist.

OptiBiome is transforming the way we approach weight loss, offering a healthy and safe way to manage weight (starvation not included) while caring for the gut. OptiBiome uses a weed and feed approach to help suppress harmful bacteria and encourage the positive kind.

OptiBiome’s OptiSlim combines three prebiotic ingredients to help conjure up a perfectly balanced digestive system to support your weight loss journey.

Konjac root, known as glucomannan, is rich in dietary fibre and low in calories, helping to increase feelings of satiety while delaying gastric emptying. Glucomannan helps regulate blood glucose levels and relieve constipation.

Chicory root fibre helps stimulate the growth of favourable bacteria in the gut, increasing micro-diversity and promoting a positive mood. Chicory root is also excellent for our liver health, helping our liver detoxification pathways.

Chromium is a mineral that helps stabilise normal blood glucose levels by enhancing the bodies use of insulin to assist carbohydrate and fat metabolism.

I know what you’re thinking, this sounds great, but I’m here for weight loss, not solely gut health – and to that, I say: have I ever lead you astray before?

OptiBiome helps cure sugar and fat cravings, with consumer studies showing an average weight loss of up to 1.3kg per week, reduced systolic blood pressure and reduced caloric intake by up to 20%.

I'm was very interested to know more about the product, so I sat down to ask all of my questions to Stephen O’Hara himself and find out some more information.

Here’s what he had to say:

Who is the OptiBiome recommended for? 

OptiBiome is a weight loss and wellbeing formula that is recommended for anyone that wants to lose and maintain a healthy weight. OptiBiome could be used by people who want to drop a dress size for a special occasion or people with health issues related to weight and obesity.

OptiBiome is safe to use by everyone.

Why is fibre important for a healthy gut?

The principal advantage of a diet high in fibre is that it improves the health of the digestive system. Dietary fibre also contributes to other processes, such as stabilising glucose and cholesterol levels.

A high-fibre diet is protective against weight gain, as high-fibre foods tend to have a lower energy density, which means they provide fewer kilojoules per gram of food. As a result, a person on a high-fibre diet can consume the same amount of food, but with fewer kilojoules (calories); this is because fibrous foods are often bulky and therefore filling.  

What essential prebiotics does Optibiome contain?

An enormous quantity of bacterial communities colonises the human gut, and there is a complex interaction between bacteria/microbiota and the gastrointestinal and immune system.

OptiBiome contains the prebiotic Chicory Root Fibre that helps stimulate the growth of positive bacteria in the gut, increasing micro-diversity and good gut health.

Is it suitable for people with gut issues/IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) develops in as many as 1 in 5 Australians at some point in their lifetime and is twice as common in women as it is in men. Around one in five Australians experiences the unpleasant symptoms of IBS at some time. These include abdominal pain, mucus in the stools, and alternating diarrhoea and constipation.

Used correctly, OptiBiome is suitable for people with IBS as it regulates digestion through fibre and prebiotics.

How does it work and do people get hungry when replacing meals?

The OptiBiome products can be used as a partial meal replacement by replacing two meals per day and incorporating a third well-balanced meal and two OptiBiome hunger buster snacks in between meals to prevent hunger.

OptiBiome promotes satiety and satisfaction throughout the day due to the action of Glucomannan.

Alternatively, the OptiBiome shakes can be used as part of a VLCD program, providing less than 800 calories per day by replacing two meals a day and incorporating a third meal from the VLCD meal plan available on their website.

And I think that about covers it!

OptiBiome’s OptiSlim is available in four different delicious flavours – espresso, chocolate, vanilla and a variety pack (but chocolate is my favourite, obviously.). There are ten gluten-free, protein and fibre-rich shakes per box. OptiBiome even has a hunger-busting snack bar to keep hunger at bay between meals.

OptiBiome is available in Chemist Warehouse and Woolworths from November 2020.

References: 

1 Stookey, J.D., Constant, F., Popkin, B.M. and Gardner, C.D. (2008), Drinking Water Is Associated With Weight Loss in Overweight Dieting Women Independent of Diet and Activity. Obesity, 16: 2481-2488. doi:10.1038/oby.2008.409

2 Vermunt, S.H.F., Pasman, W.J., Schaafsma, G. and Kardinaal, A.F.M. (2003), Effects of sugar intake on body weight: a review. Obesity Reviews, 4: 91-99. doi:10.1046/j.1467-789X.2003.00102.x

3 Nancy C. Howarth, M.Sc, Edward Saltzman, M.D., Susan B. Roberts, Ph D, Dietary Fiber and Weight Regulation, Nutrition Reviews, Volume 59, Issue 5, May 2001, Pages 129–139, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2001.tb07001.x

4 Joseph E. Donnelly, Bryan Smith, Dennis J. Jacobsen, Erik Kirk, Katrina DuBose, Melissa Hyder, Bruce Bailey, Richard Washburn, The role of exercise for weight loss and maintenance, Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology, Volume 18, Issue 6, 2004, Pages 1009-1029, ISSN 1521-6918.

5 Nedeltcheva, A. V., Kilkus, J. M., Imperial, J., Schoeller, D. A., & Penev, P. D. (2010). Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity. Annals of internal medicine153(7), 435–441. https://doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-153-7-201010050-00006

Four Frittatas to Make Your Mouth Water + My Asparagus, Mushroom and Salmon Frittata

If you wanted me to, I could give you 100 reasons explaining my immense passion for frittatas. Don’t worry, I won’t, I’ll just give you three:

  1.     Breakfast
  2.     Lunch 
  3.     Dinner 

Frittatas are one of the most versatile dishes on the planet. They can be enjoyed by those who opt for a vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free or refined carbohydrate-free diet, and pretty much everyone else too. They’re a crowd-pleaser, packed with nutrients and one of my favourite things to serve up any time of the day. 

Before we dive into the all-important frittata, it’s about time we give thanks to its foundations; the humble egg. The frittata would be nothing without the egg, and I mean this in both an emotional and physical sense.

The most versatile of ingredients, eggs can be dressed up any way you like. You can make poached, scrambled and fried eggs throughout the seasons at any time of day. Name me a more versatile ingredient, I’ll wait… I’m still waiting…. Full of protein, iron, iodine, selenium and B vitamins, eggs are a modest show-stopper. They’re the dark horse of your favourite reality TV show; and they win every time. 

Like eggs, frittatas are versatile in nature, they surpass food trends (the frittata is, like, cauliflower rice, who?) and are great for just about any occasion. You can serve up a frittata at a family lunch, for a slow Saturday morning breakfast or easy mid-week dinner. Like this Caramelised Onion Frittata.

If you’re thinking to yourself, aren’t frittatas merely a glorified omelette or sad quiche, you would be incorrect. I understand the confusion, so let’s clear it up here and now...

A frittata is similar to an omelette or quiche, as it’s an egg-based dish, but that’s where the similarities end. Unlike a quiche, the frittata doesn’t include an oily, refined-carbohydrate-filled crust. It’s also not flat like an omelette, it’s more layered, complex and satisfying. It’s the whole package, and truly stands the food test of time. 

One of the best parts about frittatas is that you can fill them with pretty much anything your heart desires. If you’re trying to get rid of some older, sad-looking vegetables that are lying limp in your vegetable crisper, they’ll go perfectly in your frittata.

Why not fill your frittata with as many veggies as you like, and maybe even a sprinkle of goat’s cheese! If it’s a frittata for a meat lover, go ham with some ham, and if it’s a fish dish that you’re craving, that’ll work swimmingly too!

Basically, anything but the kitchen sink goes when filling a frittata. Some of my favourite frittata combinations include:

  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Zucchini and carrot 
  • Tomato and Goat's cheese 
  • Salmon and onion 
  • Beef and spinach 
  • Spinach, olives and fresh basil
  • Roast pumpkin and macadamia or Goat's cheese 

If you’re not yet convinced, have a look at my Green Eggs No Ham Frittata. This green frittata can be enjoyed hot or cold and is even better the next day (hello, leftovers).  

If you’re a serious meat lover and can’t imagine it not being included in every meal, you may prefer my Fluffy Chicken Frittata. It’s a savoury lovers’ delight, full of protein, vitamins and minerals, and may I say, it is incredibly satisfying on the ol’ taste buds.

As you can see, I believe there’s a frittata for every occasion. 

If you’re ready to head under the sea, open your eyes (and mouths!) to my Asparagus, Mushroom and Salmon Frittata. This frittata is vibrant, savoury and packed full of nutrients. It’s perfect for the dairy-free among us, using almond milk to create an irresistibly fluffy texture. This protein-rich frittata will keep for days and is a brilliant way to sneak in vegetables in one go.

Asparagus, Mushroom and Salmon Frittata

SERVES 4

  • 8 eggs
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/1/2 cup) almond milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes (optional)
  • 200 g (7 oz) cooked salmon, flaked
  • 90 g (31/4 oz) mushrooms, sautéed
  • 350 g (12 oz/2 bunches) asparagus, woody ends trimmed, blanched
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • chives, finely chopped, to serve (optional)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and grease a 22 cm (81/2 inch) pie dish or 15 x 25 cm (6 x 10 inch) baking tin.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl, then whisk in the almond milk, salt and yeast flakes, if using.

Spread the salmon in the prepared pie dish and pour the egg mixture over. Arrange the mushrooms and asparagus on top.

Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until the frittata is set in the middle and the top is puffy and slightly browned.

Serve hot or cold, seasoned with salt and pepper, and topped with chives, if using.

Ten Healthy Snacks + Omega Cheese Crackers with Lemony Goat’s Cheese Dip

Please raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimised by the health food industry.

Keep your hand raised if you’ve ever tried a different way of eating and felt bad/guilty/ashamed when it didn’t work for you.

Same. 

One of the most controversial areas of the health food industry is around the idea of snacking.  

Should you snack? 

Will it make you put on weight? 

Is it ‘bad’ for you? 

If you’re not hungry, should you still have a snack?

The truth is, it’s entirely up to you, so can we please stop the fear-mongering? If you’re hungry, you should eat. It’s as simple as that. Snacking doesn’t need to be something unhealthy, something that makes you feel guilty or something you have to avoid.

For many, snacking has become a pastime during isolation, helping to alleviate stress or solve boredom. While food can act as comfort during stressful times, it shouldn’t be your only option.

Personally, I’ve been trying to use the time to up my game when it comes to mindful eating. You can read more about mindful eating here.  So, if I do feel the desire to alleviate stress and think about a bar of chocolate in my house, I’ll first try speaking to a loved one, walking around the block or doing a meditation app, and then I’ll reassess how I’m really feeling and what I’m craving. If I find I still want a snack, I choose something that will help sustain my energy like this sardine mash pot or if I'm really hungry I'll put it on this delicious toast

That being said, there’s a difference between snacking on cut-up veggie sticks and finding yourself falling into the daily habit of being elbow-deep in a large packet of potato crisps, then licking your fingers to erase any evidence. There is nothing wrong with snacking, but snacking excessively, or on discretionary foods everyday, isn’t advisable for long term health. 

If you’re deciding whether or not snacking is right for you, have a think about your meals. If you’re not intermittent fasting, I recommend consuming three balanced meals daily, including a source of fibre, protein and healthy fats at every meal. If you find the hours between breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner, unbearably long, a snack mid-morning or mid-afternoon may suit you. If you ignore tummy grumbles mid-afternoon, you may find yourself stuffing yourself silly with the chocolate you have in your secret chocolate cupboard after dinner instead. #weareonlyhuman. 

So, you’ve decided to snack, now what? Rather than eating on the run, sit down take a big breath and really savour each bite. This can feel silly at first, but it can help you align with your own specific hunger cues and understand when you’re hungry and when you’re snacking out of boredom, emotional cravings or anything else. I love to savour this banana bread, it's a must and really satisfies cravings!

If you’re looking for a snack, and not the dating kind, you’ve come to the right place. 

When choosing a snack, look for something satisfying, but not overfilling. Like when you make meals, I recommend combining protein, fibre and possibly a healthy fat, to keep the grumbles away and help you feel fuller for longer. Some great snacks include: 

Now THAT'S a snack!

These snacks are balanced and can help stabilise blood glucose levels, which can prevent overeating later on during the day. Sit down and enjoy your snack, one bite at a time.  

Whether you snack or not doesn’t need to be a binary. Some days you may feel the need to, and others you won’t. While a million health bloggers will give varied advice, remember that you are unique; you have a different body, schedule, and lifestyle to work with, and you’re the best judges of what is best for you!

Which brings me to another contentious topic; dairy. I know that cow’s dairy isn’t for everyone, but calcium sure is! Calcium is required for healthy bones, nerves, cardiac health, muscles and teeth. Sources of calcium include unhulled tahini, almond butter, dark leafy greens such as kale and collard greens, calcium-fortified milk, tofu and, of course, dairy.

If you can’t tolerate cow’s cheese, why not consider goat’s cheese? Goat’s cheese has less lactose than cow’s dairy, and many find it easier to digest. It’s rich in vitamins and minerals and tastes very delicious. While it may be a little more expensive than the run of the mill dairy, it’s well worth it! 

Done mindfully, snacking can boost energy and keep hunger at bay. If you’re ready to take on the ultimate snack party platter, or, possibly just your regular, average afternoon snack, try out my Omega Cheese Crackers with a delectable dip. Combined, this take on your regular ‘cheese and crackers’ is a supercharge of flavour, fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals and essential fats. 

So, go on, I know you want to.

 Omega Cheese Crackers 

{MAKES ABOUT 24} 

Home-made crackers are a great way to save money, save the earth by reducing package waste, and just make dip dunking and snacking so much more gratifying. These crispy flaxseed meal crackers are a weekly bake in my household, and the addition of nutritional yeast flakes gives the tastiest cheesy flavour. Great for entertaining, afternoon snacking and kids’ lunchboxes. 

  •     200 g (7 oz/2 cups) flaxseed meal 
  •     185–250 ml (6–9 fl oz/3/4–1 cup) filtered water 
  •     2 tablespoons coconut aminos 
  •     1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes (optional) 
  •     Tiny pinch of sea salt 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a baking tray with baking paper. 

In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix until they form a smooth dough. 

Spread the dough to about 3 mm (1/8 inch) thick on the prepared baking tray. Score into squares or diamonds so the crackers can be broken apart easily when baked. 

Bake for 20–30 minutes, until crispy. 

Lemony Goat’s Cheese Dip 

{ MAKES ABOUT 375 G [13 OZ] } 

  • 220 g (7 3/4 oz/1 cup) hummus 
  • 150 g (5 1/2 oz) goat’s cheese 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 

Method:

Mix all the ingredients in a food processor. 

Serve with omega cheese crackers.

Give them a go and let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Lee xo

Mindfulness and Mindful Eating Plus Roasted Pumpkin and Cauliflower Soup

The first time I heard the term mindfulness, I was at a yoga studio many moons ago. The teacher threw the word around like we were meant to understand what it meant. Initially, I thought it all sounded a little woo-woo; obviously, I’m present, I’m here, aren’t I

Sometime later, after discovering my own yoga practice and becoming a yoga and meditation teacher and clinical nutritionist, I learnt that mindfulness is more than your physical presence. Mindfulness is about the here and now, as opposed to constantly worrying about the future or fretting about the past, but it also encompasses your mind and your body being where you are, right now; so you can tune in and notice your body sensations, observe your surrounding environments and be a sightseer of your personal thoughts.

Fast forward to 2020, where mindfulness is a term recognised by health professionals, psychologists, mental health experts and huge corporate companies. What was once a Buddhist way of life has turned into a concept embraced around the world, and I think it’s about time!

If you’re not sure if mindfulness is for you, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you ever worry about the future?
  • Do you ever fret about the past?
  • Do you ever find yourself wandering off when you’re in a conversation with someone?
  • Do you feel like you’re rushing through life?
  • Are you a human?

If you’ve answered yes to any of the above, mindfulness could be a wonderful tool for you to incorporate into your life.

When you’re not mindful, it’s easy to slip into anxiety and stress or depression, inhibiting you from enjoying where you are now. Mindfulness is the exact definition of stopping and smelling the roses; it’s about savouring the little moments, like the sun shining on your skin while you laze on the couch on a Sunday morning, or enjoying a delicious weeknight meal with your family.

Mindfulness isn’t anything fancy, or out of reach, it’s something you can practice every day, starting from now. Mindfulness can apply to the way you talk to yourself, the way you breathe, the way you engage with other people, the way you move and even the way you eat. 

                                                         Fish Tortillas

Mindful Eating 

The modern diet and way of living has made it increasingly easy to eat-on-the-go and ‘save time’. We’re always looking for new ways to be more efficient and use our time more wisely, but this takes away from the enjoyment of simple moments. Eating on the run and speeding through lunch may save us time, but it limits the time we have with ourselves and our ability to foster a relationship with self; a relationship that’s hard enough as it is with our dependency on screens. 

Mindful eating is about slowing down and savouring food. It’s not about doing 1-hour meditations twice a day, it’s about starting slow and making maintainable steps towards being a little more mindful every day.  

Why bother with mindful eating?

  • Mindful eating helps signal to the brain that you’re full, so you don’t overeat or under eat. 
  • It helps us slow down when we chew, so you can actually enjoy the food you’re eating, rather than inhale it (been there, done that!).  
  • Improves the gut-mind connection. 

Diet culture has made it incredibly difficult for us to understand when we’re hungry or full, and when we’re eating to try to solve another issue. 

If you’re feeling out of touch with your hunger cues, try this exercise next time you find yourself with banana bread in one hand and a packet of chips in the other. 

  • Notice physical hunger cues, like a drop in energy or a grumbling stomach.
  • If what you notice is actually an emotion stirring up, such as stress and not hunger, what can you do instead to deal with the stress? Maybe it’s going for a walk around the block, playing music or doing a short meditation. 
  • Look out for any triggers that may have set you off.

Understanding your need and a suitable response is the first step on the mindful eating journey and will help put you in touch with your second brain – your stomach!

Once you’ve identified that you’re hungry (hanger mode: activated), find a comfortable spot to sit down to eat. It’s a known fact that you’ll eat more when you’re standing than when you’re sitting – you’ll know what I mean if you ever find yourself standing in front of your chocolate cupboard at the end of the day!

Put your food on a plate, so you’re able to visualise how much you’re eating; awareness is essential. If you’re working at home, mark the difference between ‘work time’ and ‘break time’ by lighting a candle, closing the computer, playing music and sitting at the dining table. If you’re eating while you’re out, find a comfortable spot to sit, turn your phone down and notice your surroundings.  

Be mindful of the way you talk to yourself before you eat. Negative self-talk can actually alter the structure and function of our brain, preventing you from making sustainable life changes, like mindful eating. The most significant judge you’ll ever have in this life is always yourself, so please, be kind. Remember that foods aren’t necessarily good or bad, they’re just foods. 

Before you dig in, take three deep breaths with your eyes closed. Inhale deeply until the breath reaches the pit of your belly, and then exhale slowly. This increases present awareness and unlocks your parasympathetic nervous system, which we need for improved digestion. 

Try to chew slowly, focusing on each mouthful. If you’re someone who could win a prize for how quickly you gobble down food, put down your fork between bites or try eating with your non-dominant hand. Focus on the delicious flavours and textures of each bite; you can even embrace your internal food critic. Taking small bites give you more chance to enjoy the food you’re eating. 

Now that you’re done eating notice how you feel, without guilt or judgement. Ask yourself questions such as do you feel energised and revitalised, sluggish or tired? Observing how you feel after a meal can give you a guide on which foods are more or less beneficial for your body. 

Ready for a mindful meal? Start with soup! Soups are great for when you’re starting to eat mindfully, as you’re forced to slow down because of the heat. Once you take your first delicious slurp of my Roasted Pumpkin and Cauliflower Soup, you’ll want to enjoy every single nutrient-rich and warming mouthful.  

Roasted Pumpkin and cauliflower soup

Serves 3

Ingredients

  • 1 small Cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 butternut pumpkin sliced 
  • 1 whole garlic bulb (optional)
  • 1 star anise chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp lemongrass powder
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp chopped ginger
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 2 tbs lemon
  • 2 tbs wheat-free tamari
  • 1/4 cup creme fraiche or coconut yoghurt for dairy-free
  • Mint leaves to serve

Method:

  1. Place vegetables and garlic on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil.
  2. Sprinkle cauliflower with lemongrass, fennel and ginger.
  3. Cover pumpkin with star anise and cumin
  4. Bake both of them on a tray in the oven for about 30 mins on 200 degrees Celsius or until golden.
  5. Remove from oven
  6. Place vegetables in a saucepan on stovetop add stock lemon and tamari and bring to a gentle boil.
  7. Turn heat off let cool slightly and whizz in a blender until smooth.
  8. Serve in bowls with a dollop of creme fraiche or yoghurt of choice.
  9. Top with mint 🌱 
  10. Please enjoy with your feet up in a cozy spot. Let me know if you make it and what you think in the comments below.

Enjoy! Lee xo

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