Category Archives: Musings

Alternative Natural Sodas

The other day after coming out of the mum & baby cinema around lunchtime, I was absolutely famished, and headed into the Gourmet Burger Kitchen across the street for a veggie burger.  It was a hot day and before I knew it I had seen the chilly, frosted iconic glass bottle and had ordered myself a coke.

For me that coke was a very rare ‘treat’.  But like our American and Canadian friends, many Brits continue to drink their calories in the form of beer, wine, juice and soda.  I don’t need to shock you with the risks associated with soda consumption, which has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and obesity…because these aren’t shocking facts anymore.  They’ve been around for a long time now so its so easy to glaze over when you read them and just not take them seriously.

The high fructose corn syrup which sweetens soda comes from genetically modified corn that contains pesticides which – in only seconds – destroys your good gut flora, ruining immunity and contributing to an overall immune-compromised body that constantly struggles to find nutrients for survival and systematically loses the ability to fight off pathogens, parasites and antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

You’ll probably also know that diet sodas are just as bad, with research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society showing that diet soda intake is directly related to abdominal obesity in adults over the age of 65 and the waist circumference amongst diet soda drinkers being three times that of non-diet soda drinkers.  Oh poo.  Well, there goes that plan.

Overall, surprise surprise, its just better to drink water.  The University of Bristol and Bangor University found that drinking sweet tasting drinks, regardless of their sugar content or lack thereof, dulls your sensitivity to sweet tastes in general and the sweet treat you once enjoyed becomes less of a special reward.  This establishes a vicious cycle eating sweet foods and drinks on a regular basis.

Okay, so water’s great as a daily thirst quencher, but what about on those special occasions like a BBQ or family movie night in front of the TV where you really do want a treat.  I’ve tracked down the…not ‘best’, but ‘least detrimental’ options for you which are available here in the UK:

Zevia

cola-flavorZevia do every flavour of soda you could want, from cola to grape soda to cream soda and root beer, all packaged in aluminium cans (although they do a glass bottle range now as well).  They do a tonic water for those of you who miss the occasional G&T and – get this – they even make a ‘Dr Zevia’.  Its sweetened with stevia, monk fruit and erythritol – all plant-based with no caloric value or effect on blood glucose levels – and they are Non-GMO Project Verified.

The good news is that in the US and Canada it’s available nearly everywhere.   EDIT 2018: The bad news is that here in the UK it seems to have been halfheartedly launched a couple of times, but never really took off, which is a shame.

Whole Earth

range-refreshingWhole Earth are a London-based company here in the UK which grew from a small macrobiotic restaurant back in the 60’s.  They make a range of organic sodas packaged in aluminium cans.  They make a cola as well as cranberry, lemon and elderflower sodas.  You can see their macrobiotic roots reflected in their cola which is flavoured with barley rather than the weird and wonderful botanicals you seem in some natural colas. They’re sweetened with organic agave nectar which has a lower GI than cane sugar.

Fever-Tree

2663-200ml-white-indian-tonic-low-res-rgbFever-Tree are a UK luxury botanical drinks company.  They primarily make mixers, such as tonic water, ginger beer, ginger ale and lemonade.  Their drinks are beautifully packaged in glass bottles so you do feel you are drinking something special with their products.  As a result, they have rather a lot of rewards to show for their efforts.  Their drinks are all sweetened using natural cane sugar and natural fruit sugar.

But, remember, its still sugar.  Its still going to spike your insulin levels.  Its still high GI.  It still has calories.  But its ‘real’ sugar, so it will be less damaging to your gut than the sugar you’ll find in a can of Coke.

Fentimans

fm_colaFentimans market their sodas as “botanically brewed beverages”.

But at 50 calories per 100 ml, their Curiosity Cola comes in at 8 calories per 100 ml higher than a can of Coke and it contains glucose syrup, yeast, sugar, unspecified flavourings, and a variety of e-numbers such as caramel colour (E150d) and phosphoric acid (E338).  Oh, and it is caffeinated as well.  It has been labelled by The Guardian as “The World’s Best Cola” however, so its up to you if that’s how you choose to spend your daily caloric intake.

They do a number of other flavoured sodas and cocktail mixers as well,  including a delicious Rose Lemonade (coming in at a whopping 52 calories per 100 ml).

They’re not organic and they only will confirm that their Victorian Lemonade and Ginger Beer are GMO free.  (Find out more about why you’d want to avoid GMO’s here.)  As such, I opted not to do a ‘taste test’ of their cola for this article and would NOT consider Fentimans to be a healthy alternative to conventional soda.

Roots

Because this article is about soft drinks available in the UK, we now come to Roots, a small, small, independently owned soda works in Granton, Edinburgh.  They make their soda by hand hoodoo-sodaand claim that their beverages are all natural fizzy drinks comprising of carbonated water, freshly squeezed whole fruit juice, raw cane sugar with infused flavour from herbs, spices, and petals.  Their sodas contain no artificial sweeteners, colourings, flavourings, preservatives or caffeine.

They’re not organic, but I like that they market their sodas as a special treat, only to be consumed once in a while, because “sugar is still sugar, and both fructose and sugar are *not cool* for us.”  At the moment there are only a couple of places in London carrying Roots sodas (BrewDog in Camden and Shoreditch).  I’m a mother of a 4 month old baby, so heading off the Shoreditch with the pram to taste a soda for my blog article wasn’t going to happen.  And as the company couldn’t provide me with a sample of their product for this article, I have to say I haven’t tried it yet.  I’ll update this article when I’ve done so.

Coca-Cola Life

Sigh.

1673295-slide-coca-cola-lifeOkay, I’m including this product in this article in no way because I think you should drink it.  I’m including it because some people will want to know:  “Is this a healthier alternative?”  Yes, its a healthier alternative to Coke Classic, in the way that cigars are a healthier alternative to cigarettes.

To start with, the green label is an absurdly obvious bit of greenwashing, as is the 30% of the bottle being made from unspecified plant-based resources (which I seriously suspect is GMO corn).  The product was launched in Argentina a couple of years ago and has now made its way to the UK.  (Pepsi have a similar product called Pepsi True, but as it doesn’t appear to be available in the UK, I’m not including it here.) EDIT 2018: This product was phased out of the UK market in June 2017, but it’s still available in around 30 other markets, including the US.

Coca-Cola Life contains 1/3 less sugar than regular Coke, but still contains 2/3 of whatever awful sugar it is that Coke uses in their normal soft drinks, along with a bit of stevia for “Natural Sweetness”.

And it tastes awful to boot.

 

Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs) for Dummies

A lot of my friends seem to be not that bothered about GMOs.  I mean, they’ll agree they’re not good and will tsk vaguely about bees dying or something, but for the most part, they seem to confuse genetic modification with cross-breeding (i.e. modern cross-bred grains) and they don’t go to any particular lengths to make sure the food they’re buying doesn’t contain GMOs.  Mostly they’ll just look at me like I’m a lovable hippy, a luddite or I’m about to author a book on how GMOs are linked to the FBI, JFK and the moon landings or something.  But gradually people are starting to realise that concern about GMOs is not about rejecting science and the modern world and its not about conspiracy theories.  Many modern scientific discoveries have turned out to be wonderful (IVF, insulin and the mapping of the human genome and epigenome)…so it was bound that some discoveries would go equally wrong. I am not a scientist, but I thought it might be helpful to share a quick rundown on the basics of what I know about genetically modified foods and why I choose to exclude them from my family’s diet.

What are GMOs?  

Well, to start with, GMOs are Genetically Modified Organisms.  They are created in a laboratory by the artificial manipulation (gene splicing) of the genetic material of living organisms to create unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes. Sometimes they’re marketed to the public as being a ‘good thing’ for the world and the beginning of the end of world hunger because they promise drought resistant crops and increased nutritional values.  However, in reality, GMOs are both anecdotally and evidentially responsible for health problems, environmental damage and violations of the rights of both farmers and consumers.

But they’re safe, right?  I heard there were studies that proved they were safe.

Well, there have been studies conducted in the US testing the safety of GMOs…oddly enough, conducted by the same biotech corporations that originally developed the research and continue to profit from the sales of the same products. It speaks strongly that more than 60 countries around the world, including all the countries in the EU, have significantly restricted or banned the production and/or sales of GMOs.  In contrast to that, in the US, GMOs are in around 80% of conventional processed foods…but considering American foods are shipped all around the globe, that means you really have to think about the foods you’re buying. If you’re just starting out, the foods which are most likely to be genetically modified are alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, papaya, soya, sugar beets and zucchini.  These are the foods which are between 88-99% GMO in the US and are therefore are easy ones to try to avoid when you’re out shopping.  Not easy when you have to remember to check for soy lecithin, a common emulsifier (think nearly every chocolate on the market), cornstarch, corn oil and high fructose corn syrup (again, its in so many processed foods) and canola and cottonseed oils (sometimes labelled very vaguely and they can be sneakily added in very small quantities into healthy foods like dried fruits which are packed with a little bit of oil).

Are you crazy?  Are you saying I can never eat corn or soya again?

You can, of course, eat what you want.  But if you choose not to consume or support genetically modified foods, just make sure that when you’re buying foods that contain the main offenders listed above, that you buy the organic versions.  Certified organic foods cannot be genetically modified.  Some US and Canadian certification labels allow for a very small margin of cross contamination these days.  For that reason, some organic food companies have chosen to boycott the organic certification labels and can no longer label their foods organic.  So if there’s a food you like and its not labelled organic – go to the producer’s website and check out their ethos or call up the company.  Very often you will find out about the company’s stance on GMOs in their FAQs and I have been surprised at some of the brands I like (Genius – in the UK – and Linda McCartney to name a couple) which are GMO free.

OK, but if these foods have been designed to be more resilient, then at least there will be less need for pesticides, right?

Again…no.  The toxicity of herbicides such as Roundup has been increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced.  The companies developing the GMOs are also the ones who are developing and selling agricultural chemicals.  I’ll leave it to you to do the math. In fact, one of the reasons that organic plants are better for you is because they are forced to be ‘tougher’ and not mollycoddled with pesticides.  Studies have consistently shown that while organic plants are not necessarily better than non-organic plants in terms of their micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), there is a significant increase in the amount of phytochemicals in organic plants.  Phytochemicals are the compounds that give vegetables and fruits their natural properties which we benefit from when we eat the plants – such as being anti-inflammatory or anti-cancer.

Why do you eat GMO-free?

Well, I hope I eat GMO free anyway.  There is always the risk of some cross-contamination in some crop which becomes an ingredient in a food I eat and glyphosates (the key ingredient of Roundup) have made their way into the water supplies of many areas.  And when you eat in restaurants, there’s no way of knowing unless they promote that they are GMO-free (like Chipotle).  But I’m pretty darn vigilant for the sake of me and my family because: 1 – I don’t want my baby girl consuming the ever-toxic pesticides which cover both these and non-GMO conventional crops. 2 – I don’t like the dirty behaviour of those who hold the patents on GMO crops.  Through the use of their vast budgets and political influence, they are allowed to sue farmers whose fields have become contaminated with GMO crops when drifting from neighbouring fields. 3 – And ultimately the long term health and environmental impact of GMOs are an unknown factor.  But if the short term impacts are anything to go by (a sharp increase of inflammatory gut conditions and autoimmune disorders of near pandemic proportions), I’ll pass on finding out the long term impacts, thank you. Maybe this will be helpful to some of you who have seen the anti-GMO bandwagon passing by and have had no clue why to jump on it.  Maybe you’re already on the bandwagon but have no clue why.  Or maybe this is all new to you.  I’ve now shared what I know…let’s just hope ‘the man’ doesn’t come and get me now! 🙂

Changes

Baby AnnouncementMy recent birthday was a remarkably warm Indian Summer afternoon and I sat in the square outside Spitalfields Market, eating Hummingbird Bakery cupcakes with my friend Jane.   It occurred to me at that moment that things would never be the same again.  And I’m not just talking about being able to resist the rather tantalising looking, yet e-number crammed rainbow cake I’d seen in the bakery earlier.

It all started with my visit to the 20-something substitute midwife a couple of weeks ago.  “You look fantastic for a pregnant lady in her 40’s” she said to me…on the day before my 36th birthday.

I had always been mistaken for being younger than I actually am.  Never older.  So it hit me hard.

Was this the beginning of how it happens?  Getting a Claire Balding haircut, buying a minivan, joining Pinterest?  (Oh God, I just joined Pinterest!)  Next thing you know, boom, you’ve got crows feet and find yourself in tears at the Creme de la Mer counter.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve felt great throughout most of this pregnancy.  A little sick at the beginning and perhaps these days, at week 22, I move at a…slightly slower pace.  I desperately am fighting pregnant lady waddle, but am not sure how much longer I will be able to fight that off as my whopper of a baby continues to grow.

I sit here in my living room as the builders upstairs listen (and occasionally sing along) to Latvian radio.  We are converting our second bathroom into a nursery.  A nursery!  I remember when we were house hunting.  We’d see nurseries and think “that would make a great second bathroom!”  I’m excited about this nursery and its future occupant.

But I really do miss having a second bathroom.

Paleo Diet Review

At first glance, my friend Sarah and I couldn’t have more different diets to each other.  So when we found out that the the other had decided to try the high protein, high fat Paleo diet earlier this year for the month of January, we were equally surprised.  Sarah was surprised because she secretly wondered how the heck was I – a vegetarian – going to eat Paleo…and just what would I be eating?  And I was surprised because after 18 years of friendship, I’ve never seen Sarah go a day without eating sugar and dairy.  So, with some delay (I like to think as a period of reflection) we would like to share our stories and thoughts on the experience.

Sarah’s Story

At the beginning of January I sat down with my computer and a hand-drawn calendar and mapped out Paleo meals. And then my family of 5 followed the Paleo diet for one month. It was ambitious. I was hard. It was sometimes complicated. But was it worth it in the end?

Maybe?

As a stay-at-home mother of three boys (with ages ranging from “will eat anything that’s put in front of him” to “won’t eat it if it’s not peanut butter”), I struggle every day to ensure my kids are eating healthy food.  Mostly my approach is pretty basic.  I buy organic, local produce (when I can).  I use whole grains.  And I cook, every day.  But kids are kids.  And although some people have those children who will eat anything, I don’t.  So the idea to cut out whole food groups that my children will eat (pasta, bread, cheese) was something that I didn’t take on lightly.  Would my children starve?

They didn’t of course.  And neither did I.  Because by week three, I was cheating.  Well, I wasn’t cheating.  But the kids were.  Because you can’t tell a five year old that spaghetti squash is pasta (because it’s not).  And the baby, it turns out, really missed yoghurt.

It turns out that there are a lot of good things about the Paleo diet.  We ate a lot of vegetables.  We avoided refined sugars.  I tried baking with alternative flours, and have added some really good new recipes to my files.  We eat locally, sustainably raised meat anyway, so that wasn’t different.  But our meals did become more…protein focused.

But we did miss the foods that we love.  And that was sometimes hard (hence my caving and cooking the boys pasta because they really wanted it).  Like any diet that is quite restrictive, there were times when the diet wasn’t any fun. And at the end of the day, I’m not sure, for example, that legumes or dairy are really all that bad for you.

The intriguing thing about the Paleo Diet is that it seems logical. As humans, we evolved a certain way, to eat certain foods. So it makes sense that these are the foods we should be eating to be healthy.

But healthy eating, for me at least, isn’t about restriction.  It’s about ensuring that I and my family are eating the largest variety of foods possible – including carbs and glutens and legumes when appropriate.  The Paleo diet turned out not to be for me, but the discipline of really being conscious of my food choices was useful in “resetting” my meal planning, and getting me out of the post-holiday sugar-pasta-junk food rut.  Will I try it again?

Maybe?

But with so many food trends out there, maybe next January I’ll try “Vegan before Six.”

Kelly’s Story

Student Nutritionists go through something similar to first year med students – the med students tend to get a bit hypochondriac and nutrition students love to try out all the hype diets.  As a responsible nutritionist, I will someday know that everybody and their body is different and will suit a different diet.  Some people do better with high fat, high protein diets, others favour raw vegan lifestyles.  Others, like macrobiotics, and followers of Weston A Price favour a pretty balanced whole foods diet.  (No one flourishes on a standard diet of processed foods, though.  No one.)  However, until that responsible future nutritionist (me!) is qualified, I’m enjoying trying out all kinds of different diets and ways of eating; partly so I can see what suits me and partly so I can understand the challenges that my future clients might face when moving onto specialist diets for one reason or another.

Its pretty easy for me to try these things out, as my lifestyle is pretty flexible and I don’t have children.  However, I do have a husband.  But he’s easy, you know.  He’ll pretty much eat whatever I’m eating…

…but with a steak thrown on top.

So, back to Paleo.  I already knew that I had an intolerance to modern hybridised wheat (while seeming to do just fine on heritage wheats like emmer, kamut and spelt), so I wondered if taking all grains out of the equation might make me feel even better.  (I’m slightly extremist at times.)

I was pretty dubious about taking my beloved pulses out of my diet, but in the interests of the experiment, I did.  I was okay about eliminating sugar and terrified about eliminating most dairy.  As I don’t eat meat, but do eat fish, I substituted organic or wild fish for the pasture-fed organic meats.  Otherwise, it was pretty much the same.  I actually emailed the founder of the Paleo movement, Dr Loren Cordain, to ask about this and received a pretty frank reply that a life without meat was an unhealthy one.  Uh huh….so that was a nice start.

But I was assured by all the fancy-looking blogs I had read and high energy Bulletproof Diet TED talks I’d seen, that once on a high fat, high protein, low carb diet, I would immediately drop a ton of weight and become the happiest, healthiest and most energetic I had ever been.

As it happened, I had low energy all the time because my brain wasn’t getting the glucose it needed for me to get on with my very busy life, my mouth eternally tasted of grease from all the coconut oil, fish oils, avocados and grassfed butter I was eating and no to put too fine a point on it, I may as well have piped polyfilla into my digestive tract.

Oh, and I gained about 8 pounds.

So Paleo wasn’t for me.   (I mean, have you TRIED Bulletproof coffee???)

But it wasn’t all bad.  It gave me an opportunity to try out lots of recipes using different wholefood ingredients which was fun and educational.  A few (Paleo pancakes) have even continued on as firm household favourites.  It made me reconsider a lot of the health food store processed foods I still somewhat relied on and it weaned me away from dairy, to which I was completely addicted.  It was really nice in mid-winter to come home from the shops with nearly nothing packaged in a box or bottle – just fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs (oh God, so many eggs) and organic fish and meats.  And that’s what I’ve kept from the experience.

So a few months down the line, my food intake is a much more satisfying and balanced high complex carb, low fat, low-med protein diet and it suits me so much better.  I can eat all the fruits and veg I want, along with some legumes (I really missed those in January) and a bit of brown rice or wholegrain pasta.

Oh and yeah, I kept the coconut oil.  Just, um, its not in my coffee this time…

Brasserie Max at the Covent Garden Hotel

 

Girls. Girls work together. They play together. They get their nails done together. They share a glass of wine together. They say terrible things about work colleagues together. And then they go to dinner together.

Which is funny, because I would have thought that in going to dinner together, they would have been able to eat together. I guess Brasserie Max – up until now a particular favourite of mine – has opted to take the Wagamama approach to food, however. (Meh, whenever its ready.)

One of my work colleagues – a dear friend – recently recieved the annual staff award at our office and to celebrate we treated her to an evening out at Brasserie Max, the chic & snug restaurant on the ground floor of the Covent Garden Hotel on Monmouth Street.

The atmosphere of the hotel is everything I love about Covent Garden. In fact, I love all the Firmdale Hotel chain restaurants. They have comfy chairs, grand zinc bars, perfectly cooked yumlicious food (yes, I said yumlicious) and they can happily accommodate any dietary requirement. If you are a lover of cocktails, they all look amazing – and if the never ending stream of waiters carrying trays of martini glasses is anything to go by, they taste delicious as well.

So where did it all go wrong?

We all ordered from the set menu. (The set menu we had to ask for because it wasn’t offered to us when we sat down.) Two of us ordered the salmon and two the shepherd’s pie. The food arrived and the salmons were superb. The shepherd’s pies, however, were tepid. Both of them. So they were both sent back to be heated through. I’m a slow eater at the best of times. I ate especially slowly on this occasion. But bar the last bite of salmon and a stem of broccoli I left on the plate (to seem slightly less rude and like I’d eaten my entire meal while two of the other diners sat waiting for their meals to return  for over TWENTY MINUTES), the other salmon diner and I had both eaten our meals when the two hot shepherd’s pies arrived back at the table. I will give Brasserie Max this – they could have heated the pies through in a microwave, but they did not. They in fact prepared two new shepherd’s pies from scratch. A testimony purely to the integrity of the back of house – that’s not lost on me. However, we did not get to eat our meal together and that felt uncomfortable and quite frankly it was the front of house’s problem to sort out.

But hey, the company was good and it was a celebratory evening, so I tried not to behave as incredibly annoyed as I felt. I assured myself Brasserie Max would do what decent fine dining restaurants do and would comp us some desserts or knock a percentage off the bill. But the bill came and no discounts were given and no comps offered. We were treating our friend and there was no way I was kicking up a fuss at the table, given the circumstances.

I guess what Brasserie Max doesn’t know about me is that I have worked back of house in fine dining restauranst – far finer than Brasserie Max. And when a restaurant does something this appalling and doesn’t try to make it up to you – no matter how friendly the staff and no matter how good the food, they are basically telling you that you don’t really matter as a customer. I don’t mean in some deep and subconscious way – this basic hotel/restaurant management 101 stuff.

And to top it all off, because the message just wasn’t quite clear enough, they had the sheer cojones at the end of it all to tell us that they needed the table back (“Oh, do you mean the table that we’ve had for this long because we ate our main courses in two separate sittings?” I’ll point out there were other tables free at this point and no one queuing to get into the restaurant at 9pm on this fairly quiet weekday evening).

I do a lot of professional restaurant reviewing these days and don’t often have the opportunity to write reviews on my own blog anymore. I was looking forward to writing up a really glowing review of this evening’s experience, but sadly, Brasserie Max, I have got your message loud and clear.

 

10 Achievable New Year Resolutions

Every year I ask my mother what her new year resolution is.  She says she’s giving up chocolate.  It lasts about 3 days.  Sound familiar?  Sure, I’ve made major life decisions which I have adhered to over the years, but I’m pretty sure that none of them were ever the result of a new year resolution.  In fact I struggle to think of a single new year resolution which wasn’t a complete failure.  So I’ve come up with 10 achievable changes to incorporate into my life for 2014.

1)  More Family Time

A while ago I made the decision that my job should make me as happy as the rest of my life does and I started training to become a Nutritional Therapist.  This has involved me keeping my day job while attending class on most weekends.  My work-school-life balance has been less than ideal for a while now and so this week I made the decision to reduce my hours at work and switch to a weekday class schedule, which will once again free up my weekends to once again spend Saturday mornings at Borough Market with my husband again or exploring Telegraph Hill with the dog…or even just spending a lazy morning on the sofa with a mug of tea and a copy of the Sunday Times.

2.  Grow Where You’re Planted

Maybe this one only applies to me.  I’ve spent my whole life thinking “life will be perfect when we move to….” and  “when we get a bigger house then  we can……”.  But maybe I just need to learn to love the space I’m in and cherish what I’ve got.   I have a warm and beautiful home with enough space to welcome our friends and a garden where I can enjoy the sun in the summer.  We live in a great neighbourhood with access to plenty of parks.  There’s always going to be something bigger and better and somewhere else that seems more exciting.  And who knows what the future might hold?  But right now, maybe I just need to nurture the little plot where I’m planted right now.

3.  Eat More Coconut Oil

Hey this is an easy one.  Coconut oil is great.  I’m a little biased because I love the stuff.  Its great for healthy skin (applied topically or when eaten regularly), for shiny hair (again, either applied topically or eaten regularly….or both!), for brain function (appearing to play a role in the reduction of dementia and Alzheimer’s), and it contains high levels of lauric acid which can kill  fungi, harmful bacteria and viruses.  Yes, its a saturated fat, but its structurally different to other saturated fats and is metabolised differently.  It fills you up, reducing your overall intake of calories, and even promoting a reduction in abdominal fat.  You know…your spare tire.  But make sure that you buy the raw, virgin, cold-pressed organic stuff.

4.  Take Your Vitamins.  (Not Just Buy Them)

I’ve got better with this over the last year, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.  I spend a lot of money on good quality  supplements and when I take them, I feel great.  I try to keep it down to a minimum, so I’m not rattling as I walk down the street, but there are a few vitamins I take as well as a couple of herbal tinctures and a fantastic breakfast shake which balances my blood sugar from morning to early afternoon because I really REALLY don’t wan to get diabetes!  That being said, I don’t particularly want my life to revolve around my vitamin schedule, but I do think it would improve my overall wellbeing if I just take the vitamins I’ve got when I’m supposed to take them.  (Even the yucky ones with kelp and spirulina that stink like low tide on a hot day and make me want to barf every time I take them.)  Its called structure.  I have very little of that in my life.

5.  Walk More – 10,000 Steps

“You know what, I really need to start walking less” said no one, ever.  Okay, that sounded like one of those glib Facebook shares and perhaps somewhere it is.  But really, walking is so good for you, and if you are at all able to engage in this exercise (i.e. not in a wheelchair or completely bedridden) then get out and walk some more.  I’m not really a pedometer kind of a person, but depending on your height and gait, 10,000 steps a day is between 5 and 8 kilometres.  There is a plethora of evidence that 10,000 steps a day will burn excess calories,  improve heart health and also can improve mental health. Any times in the past when I’ve gone through a difficult period, I know that walking has been my drug of choice.  I walk, walk and walk some more.  And when I think I can’t walk anymore, I just keep going.  This year I definitely plan to reignite my love of this simple activity – and best of all, its free!!!

6.  Think About Where Your Money Goes – Shop Local & Shop Strategically

Your pound, dollar, peso, whatever, is the best communication tool in the world.  Its better than Twitter, Facebook. customer feedback groups or the Amazon star rating system.  Because in the end, like it or not, the world is about money.  Every purchase you make tells companies (both big and small) what to keep making and tells stores what to keep stocking on their shelves.  For instance, today the average person in Britain consumes 36.4 kilos of sugar each year.  In 1997  that figure was 29.5 kilos.  This trend tells companies to produce more consumables (can you really call it food?) with sugar and to continue to make sweet foods sweeter.  By thinking about which companies, products and values we are supporting before spending our money, and taking into account the impact that even one person’s spending habits can have (remember that 36.4 kilos of sugar per year we’re all eating?  That’s over 230 million kilos of sugar in Britain alone), we are shopping strategically and helping to set the marketplace of the future.

7.  Try Something Different

Everyone gets caught up with crazy, restrictive or just plain unhealthy new year diets.  We suddenly realise we have to lose a whole whack of kilos which we just spent the last 6 months gaining and expect to lose it in two weeks.  Well, it don’t work like that, honey.  So instead of putting pressure on yourself, just remember how to enjoy real food and exercise again.  I find diet books exhausting.  They provide such rigid protocols I feel bored before I’ve even finished the second chapter.  But you know what?  Some different ways of eating are both really healthy and really fun.  For instance, in the spring, summer and early autumn months, I love eating a lot of raw vegan food.  There are some great bloggers out there with recipes that are so much fun to try:  Fully Raw KristinaFragrant Vanilla Cake and Live.Love.Raw.  Try it for a day.  A week.  A month.  Or even just one meal.  I’ve always been a little intimated to try eating Paleo, so on 1 January Mr Harris and I agreed to do it together.  There was no pressure – no commitment to adhere to it for any set length of time. Just to see how we got on with it.   And you know what – it couldn’t be easier having a grain-free lifestyle.  It makes the weekly shopping trip quick and easy (just fish, meat, eggs, fruit, vegetables and nuts!) and if I feel I just can’t get on without a bit of dairy, well, then I have a bit of cheese made from organic sheep or goats’ milk, which are much easier to digest.  Its not about discomfort and deprivation.  We might keep eating this way for another week.  We might keep eating this way forever.  But I’m just pleased that we tried it.  (And don’t forget to combine it with resolution number 5 above:  Walk More!)

8.  Meditate

(Uh oh…where’s she going with this?)  Meditation doesn’t have to mean a prayer rug and incense.  It can mean whatever it needs to mean to you to calm the near constant hyperarousal of the sympathetic nervous system which so many of us experience in our everyday lives.  We react to the so called ’emergencies’ in our work environments in the same way our bodies evolved to react to say, an attacking tiger.  While intellectually we can tell the difference, unfortunately our nervous system can’t, and adrenal fatigue is just all too common from overstimulation of the fight or flight instinct.  So what helps?  Meditation is one thing that can help.  You can sit on a prayer rug and silently empty your mind.  You can tune into Oprah & Deepak on their regular 21 day meditation sessions.  You can find a group of like minded people who enjoy chanting and ohm your hearts out.  I find it difficult to clear my mind unless I’m focusing on some type of gentle, preferably repetitive movement like walking or rock climbing, or being guided through yoga or tai chi.  I’ve even achieved a clear mind when swimming, looking at the bottom of the ocean floor or the tiles of the pool, and just focusing on gliding through the water while causing as little rippling as possible.  Or I don’t know, go fly fishing.  Just something quiet to take you away from the stimuli and scheduling of the rest of your life:  away from mobile phones, television, computers, wifi, traffic, screaming children and loved ones asking when dinner is ready and where the toilet paper is kept.   And by ‘you’, I mean ‘me’.

9.  Eat a Carrot a Day

Yes, I am going to eat a carrot a day.  I told you these were achievable resolutions.  I could bang on for days about the health benefits of carrots , but here’s a new one for me.  Raw carrots contain a type of undigestible fibre that binds excess oestrogen (and other toxins) and prevents them from being reabsorbed in the intestine.  Instead, your body can then focus its resources on progesterone and thyroid (yay!), rather than cortisol and oestrogen (boooooo).   And apparently all within just a few days of regular use.  (Ditto for bamboo shoots, by the way, in case for some reason you prefer those to carrots.)  Unfortunately, oatmeal – though also a good source of fibre – won’t do the trick.  This is because oatmeal provides good food for bacteria.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but the resulting bacterial endotoxins can put a chronic strain on the liver (liver processes toxins remember?), and divert its focus from storing enough sugar to process thyroid and other hormones….which could be the reason for the hormone imbalance in the first place.

And why do we care about too much oestrogen?  Less oestrogen means less strain on the liver, less inflammation overall and improved thyroid health.  Oh yeah, and boys, it also means less likelihood of you getting a nice set of moobs.

10.  Bake a Cake

Not just one cake.  Cakes on a regular basis.  And tea too.  Because what’s a home without a cup of tea and a slice of cake (in my case delicious almond, honey & orange Paleo cake) on a  Sunday afternoon?

the bees at happy hour

Somehow in London, Thursday has become the new Friday. As I walk home after work in the bracing November wind, most pubs are warm inside and are abuzz with City suits and secretaries at happy hour.  I was reminded of this happy little video I put together in the summer, back when I enjoyed warmer days watching the bees at Bello Uccello apiary  having their happy hour.  How can you not be happy watching the little bees enjoying their verbena bee tea?  I hope you enjoy it!