4 of my Favourite Super Smoothies

I love a good smoothie, and will happily have one for breakfast, as a post-workout refuel, or as a liquid afternoon snack. Smoothies can help you increase your daily intake of fruit or vegetables, allow for a light meal on the go (note: light meal, I don’t use smoothies as a meal replacement apart from breakfast) and also help with hydration levels. Having recently spent an evening with John Lewis Retail, talking all things blender related, I thought I’d share some smoothie facts, and some my favourite recipes, with you all.

smoothies, health, nutrition

Did you know that the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables has increased? It is now advised that adults should consume 2 portions of fruit, and a whopping 7 portions of vegetables per day. If this sounds like a little too much for your dinner plate, then smoothies are the way to go. Increasing the amount of vegetables as opposed to fruits helps to control sugar intake and the effects of acidic fruit on the teeth and stomach acid / gut health. The liquid element of a smoothie also helps with hydration especially if, like me, you’re not so good with drinking plain water. Just a 2% decrease in hydration level can affect performance in work or exercise, and stimulants such as tea or coffee only exacerbate the dehydration in the body.

smoothies, health, nutrition

When Should I Have My Smoothie?

There are many schools of thought as to when the optimum time should be to pre-fuel, or re-fuel before or after exercise. I am going by what I learnt while studying for my nutrition diploma, but there are other feeding methods out there!

Pre-workout: at least an hour before exercise, with essential fatty acids for energy.

Simple Breakfast Smoothie

  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon nut butter
  • 2 tablespoons oats
  • Oat / almond / coconut / dairy milk to desired consistency

 

Green Elixir

  • 1 handful kale
  • 1 handful spinach
  • 1 cup pineapple, cubed
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • Splash honey & superfood powder (optional)
  • Coconut water to desired consistency

 

smoothies, health nutrition

Post-workout: within 30 minutes of a workout, with a form of carbohydrate to replenish the glycogen storage without causing a spike in insulin levels. Depending on the type of exercise, protein can be added however, protein should only be used if the workout was high intensity or strength training!

Banana Boost

  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon nut butter
  • 1 scoop vanilla or chocolate protein powder
  • Oat / almond / coconut / dairy milk to desired consistency

 

Berry Blast

  • 1 banana
  • 1 handful raspberries
  • 1 handful blackberries
  • 1 mango
  • 1 large handful kale
  • Coconut water to desired consistency
  • (1 scoop vanilla protein powder if required)

 

smoothies, health, nutrition

These are my personal favourites, but the choices are endless. A good rule of thumb when experimenting with smoothies is 1/3 fruit, 2/3 vegetables, but it really depends on your personal preference. If I fancy something sweet, I’ll crank up the berries and save the veggies for another day. As long as you’re balanced in your approach (as with life in general), a little extra sugar occasionally won’t be the end of the world.

There are plenty of pre-made smoothie kits available now, my favourites are from Pack’d as they include a little sachet of super food powered to boost your smoothie. New smoothie company, Pure Smoothie Box, can even send you a box of ingredients straight to your door, all portioned out with recipes ready for your week ahead.

smoothies, health, nutrition

Pure Smoothie Box

So why not experiment with some smoothies next time you have the 3pm energy slump….or tell me your current favourite smoothie, and I’ll give it a try myself!

The Mornflake Oat Games

1 field of ancient oats, 20 fitness bloggers, 3 crossfit stations and 21 minutes of pushing yourself to the max. How did everyone else spend their Sunday? Courtesy of Cheshire based oat producers, Mornflake, I experienced all of the above as they launch their range of protein boosted porridge oats and celebrated the fact that the Olympic Games are just around the corner. Far from my normal restful Sundays, I hopped on the train heading North (spotting fellow fitness bloggers on the way) and enjoyed a day of fitness amongst Mornflake’s own oat fields in The Oat Games!

mornflake, protein oats, fitness, health, food

Photo Credit: Mornflake (and their awesome drone)

Our day started with smoothies courtesy of the lovely Nic’s Nutrition, and an introduction to the brand. Family owned, and running for 15 generations, the Mornflake mill is just a few miles from where they’re grown in the heart of the Cheshire countryside. Mornflake ensures that its consumers have the finest oats in their breakfast bowls and is committed to the sustainability of its farmland and the environment. Aside from standard porridge oats, they produce oat bran, protein boosted oats, and ‘Mornflake Go’ instant oats.

mornflake, protein oats, fitness, health, food

mornflake, protein oats, fitness, health, food

We were then put through our paces with CW1 Crossfit, a local crossfit box. First we tried some tire flips and sled pulling. All new to me, I was determined to try everything I could…I even joined in the runs, and we all know how much I hate running! That was just a taster of what was to come, as we were then explained the 21 minute workout we were about to face. 7 minutes at each of the 3 stations, we stared down the gauntlet at haystack hurdles, kettle bell swings, haystack jumps, medicine ball squats, 10kg plate holding and burpees. In pairs we pushed each other, swapping out each exercise when fatigue set in. I was partnered with the fabulous, and super inspiring Sarah – Growing Butterfly – and loved training with a partner. Not something I’ve done a lot of in the past.

mornflake, protein oats, fitness, health, food

mornflake, protein oats, fitness, health, food mornflake, protein oats, fitness, health, food mornflake, protein oats, fitness, health, food

This workout was tough, but the crossfit trainers gave everyone lots of encouragement and explained how to perform each exercise safely. I know crossfit gets a bad rep sometimes, and while it’s not something I think I’d do regularly, it’s not something I’d shy away from. With decent instructors who understand modifications and injury risks, it’s a super high intensity workout that produces results fast.

mornflake, protein oats, fitness, health, food mornflake, protein oats, fitness, health, food

After the crossfit session, we were treated to a mini yoga class from Boys of Yoga. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to this the most, and it was lovely to gently stretch after all that high impact. At that point I didn’t even mind the spluttering of rain that had started to fall. It was so refreshing, and I wasn’t going to miss any yoga! Of course, I couldn’t resist fooling around with some yoga poses as we finished the session…headstand on a hay bale anyone?!

mornflake, protein oats, fitness, health, food mornflake, protein oats, fitness, health, food mornflake, protein oats, fitness, health, food

mornflake, protein oats, fitness, health, food

After more smoothies, and a delicious falafel wrap made by the owner of the farm herself, we slowly started to wind up the day. With my arms full of Mornflake goodies, I got back on the long train home, happy to have spent the afternoon with some fabulous like-minded people. What was great about this event is that there was such a variety of fitties, from yogis like me, to bikini competitors, recipe creators and golfing enthusiasts. We all had fitness and food in common, and had a really fun day.

mornflake, protein oats, fitness, health, food

mornflake, protein oats, fitness, health, food

Photo Credit: Mornflake

I can’t wait to enjoy some of the oats from Mornflake, not only for porridge, but for high protein snacks and treats as well. Time to start experimenting in my kitchen! Thanks to Mornflake for such a fun day, check out their website for photos and and a fabulous drone video from the event.

PACK’D Into A Week

Smoothies are one of my favourite things for a quick refuel. I have them for breakfast, post-workout and for a liquid afternoon snack. Although I’m getting a taste for protein smoothies packed with oats and peanut butter, my favourites are still packed with fruit and vegetables. The one annoying thing about making smoothies though, is the time it takes to prepare each ingredient. More often than not, I freeze my fruit and, if I remember, pop it all in the blender to defrost overnight, and blend before work in the morning.

packd, frozen smoothie, health

Photo Credit: Will Patrick

That’s where PACK’D comes in! Ready chopped and portioned, frozen smoothie kits, with additional superfood sachets, there couldn’t be an easier way to get your 5-a-day. I recently spent a week in frozen smoothie heaven, fitting each smoothie into my day. PACK’D Frozen Smoothie Kits come in three different varieties, Defence, Detox and Energy, each packed (see what I did there?) with fruit and veg ready to blend. Each kit has two bags of frozen ingredients, and two superfood sachets. Easy as that.

pack'd, frozen smoothie, health

Here’s how I spent my week with PACK’D.

Sunday: I started my PACK’D week with a Detox smoothie, perfect for just a little hangover! Full of delicious greens including spinach, kale and pineapple, I blended with apple juice for extra sweetness. Finally I popped in the powder sachet giving final smoothie a boost with spirulina, wheatgrass, chlorella and barelygrass for extra nutrient goodness.

packd, frozen smoothie, health

Monday: Having had a relaxed start to the day, I gave myself a burst of energy in the afternoon with the PACK’D Energy kit. Blended with coconut water, and undoubtedly my favourite, the berries, banana and spinach (plus added flax, maca, cacao and guarana) was a great pick-me-up before an evening ballet class.

packd, frozen smoothie, health

Tuesday: Back to the green today for a post hot yoga Detox smoothie!

Wednesday: An early morning, and a chilly day, getting caught in the rain called for an immune system boost with the PACK’D Defence kit. Full of goodness, this smoothie contains papaya, mango and ginger as well as flax, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, plus baobab.

packd, frozen smoothie, health

Thursday: My longest working day, and a very early morning, it’s a quick Energy smoothie for breakfast.

Friday: The final day of a long week, my last smoothie is a Defence boost to set me up for the weekend ahead.

I’m so pleased to have discovered PACK’D Frozen Smoothies. Having everything portioned out and ready to blend such a good idea, and super convenient.

packd, frozen smoothies, health

Photo Credit: Will Patrick

Thanks to PACK’D, I am hosting a giveaway of a box of PACK’D goodness! All you have to do is enter below and keep your fingers crossed!

EDIT: due to an error (my stupidity) the previous rafflecopter competition was deleted. I happened to check the entries before this occured and ALL ENTRIES will be added manually. No need to re-enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was gifted these smoothie kits by the lovely people at PACK’D, all opinions my own.

The London Coffee Festival

OK, not strictly a fitness post, but I make it no secret that I love a good cup of coffee, and a lot of my workouts are fuelled by coconut milk lattes. So when Joe Blogs Network had a VIP ticket to The London Coffee Festival up for grabs, I couldn’t resist popping along to Shoreditch on my afternoon off to see what it’s all about!

London Coffee Festival

Simply head to the Old Truman Brewery this weekend, and see for yourself the delights of the coffee world. You’ll find everything from tiny local coffee roasters, to larger brands, individual filter cups, to huge commercial espresso machines, and even some teas thrown in for good measure. Honestly, it was rather overwhelming to begin with, I didn’t know where to start. But with a show guide in hand, I slowly navigated my way around, admittedly getting a little tanked up on free samples of coffee!

Other than sampling every coffee you come across, there are plenty of other things to see and do. Book a spot at the coffee and food pairing table, have a cheeky espresso martini, watch the masters at work in a coffee workshop, or try your hand at latte art. The latter is a lot harder than it looks, I just about managed a wonky heart.

latte art, london coffee festival

Left: Not my art. Right: My attempt at art!

It’s not all about roasting and brewing however, you can sample the delights of Alpro Plant Power, Rachel’s Organic Milk, Rebel Kitchen and many more. Tasty snacks from Propercorn, Doisy & Dam and Hotel Chocolat, to name but a few, are also on hand to help absorb all that caffeine, as well as brunch or lunch from Gather+Gather.

london coffee festival

london coffee festival

Whether you’re a newly formed cafe, boutique retailer or simply a coffee connoisseur, the range of brands showing their coffee makers is so vast, there’s bound to be something up your street. At DeLonghi, I was treated to a macchiato made using their newest espresso machine, where your coffee is prepared using an app from up to 10 metres away. The thought of ordering my coffee from my bed is too exciting, all I’d need to do is train the cat to bring it from the kitchen.

london coffee festival

Next up I checked out what Sage Appliances had on offer, their state of the art range includes a milk frothing jug with a built in temperature gauge. Perfect for getting your cappuccino to the correct drinking temperature, and I’m looking forward to testing mine out tomorrow morning.

london coffee festival

I also chatted to tea brands T2 and Suki Tea, frozen yogurt company Bee Me, MOJU Juices and cold brew coffee company Minor Figures. So many lovely conversations over a coffee or tea!

SukiTea T2

Love coffee? Get yourself down to Shoreditch this weekend! Book your tickets here, and enjoy an afternoon fuelled by caffeine. Couldn’t make it? Check out Curry’s 5 Ways to Enjoy Your Coffee and get sipping away at that cuppa Joe!

CoffeeFest

Joe’s Blogs gifted me with a VIP ticket in exchange for a blog post. See Disclaimer for more information.

Energise Naturally With Nairn’s

Nairn’s know their oats, and their oatcakes have been a cupboard staple of mine for many years. I’m sure they’ve made an appearance in your lunchbox at some point too, but did you know that the company have been producing oatcakes since 1896?! So when I say they know their oats, they really know their oats.

It was only recently however, at an event showing that there’s more to Nairn’s than just oatcakes, that I really got to know the company and their wide range of products. From oatcakes to crackers, biscuits and snack bags, Nairn’s are set to be a cupboard stable for another 120 years.

Nairn's, oatcakes, food, health, gluten free

Nairn’s use only wholegrain oats grown in the Scottish Boarders, and pride themselves in good quality, slowly grown produce, creating wholesome food that is as natural as possible. A far cry from plain oatcakes to pop a slice of cheese and a cherry tomato on top of, the Nairn’s range covers everything from breakfast porridge, to lunchtime crackers, as well as low sugar biscuits for that 3pm slump. They even have a great gluten-free range that isn’t tasteless and boring but has almost as much variety as the standard range.

Why Oats?

The Scots have been eating oats as part other diet for hundreds of years, and are known for having porridge to give them the best start to their day. But why are oats so beneficial?

  • High in soluble fibre which helps fill you up and release energy slowly throughout the day, as well as helping to maintain a healthy digestion
  • A good source of vitamins and minerals
  • Oats contain beta-glucans which has been proven to help lower cholesterol
  • Versatile and affordable

 

Naturally Energising

Given all the benefits of oats, and knowing the long-term energy they give, Nairn’s arranged for us to have a Pilates taster session with the one and only Lynne Robinson of Body Control Pilates. We were gently guided through some exercises focusing on the fundamentals of Pilates; perfect for me after a long day and probably an even longer week!

Nairn's, oatcakes, food, health, pilates

After building up a little appetite, we were finally treated to some oatcake canapés, including some innovative toppings I hadn’t ever thought about! I’m a standard cheese and tomato, or tuna and cucumber kind of girl and have never thought about incorporating oatcakes into anything other than my lunch.

Nutritionist Amanda Hamilton, chef and blogger Karen Burns-Booth, and fitness blogger Faya Nilsson each shared with us their favourite recipes, and here’s my take just a few of those ideas to get your own creative juices going!

Nairn's, oatcakes, food, health, gluten free

Amanda, Karen and Faya

Scrambled Eggs & Salmon

  • Nairn’s product of your choice (I’m loving the herb & seed crackers, but plain oatcakes would work just as well)
  • Scrambled egg
  • Thinly sliced smoked salmon
  • Grated horseradish root to taste

 

Bacon, Tomato & Feta

  • Nairn’s cracked black pepper oatcakes
  • Crispy bacon, thinly sliced (a bit of a treat)
  • Crumbled feta
  • Roasted cherry tomato

 

Asian Spices Prawns & Kale

  • Nairn’s super seeded oatcakes
  • Kale leaf lightly braised
  • Baby prawns stir fried in sweet chilli sauce
  • Squeeze lemon juice

 

Banana & Nut Butter

  • need I explain this one?!

 

Apple Crumble Trifle

  • Nairn’s Ginger Oat Biscuits, crushed
  • Cooking apples cooked in water, cinnamon and sugar (or your sugar alternative) until soft, drain, blend to a pulp
  • Greek yogurt
  • Layer in a glass: Biscuits, apples, yogurt, biscuits, apples, yogurt
  • Honey drizzled on top.

 

Thanks Nairn’s for a wonderful evening and a huge goodie bag full of treats. A special thanks to you for discovering I was experimenting with gluten-free and letting me loose on a table full of your gluten-free range. I’m absolutely loving it all!!

Nairn's, oatcakes, food, health, gluten free

For more information on Nairn’s, their products, manufacturing processes and more recipes on their blog, head to their website.

Review | The Mediterranean Zone

How often have you heard someone complaining that their diet didn’t work and they simply ‘can’t lose weight’? I hear it a lot, and without wanting to lecture people (and putting medical reasons aside), it’s usually because they are constantly hopping from diet to diet and not actually keeping up and long-term healthy lifestyle. In order to maintain a healthy weight, it’s has to be a lifestyle change, and it has to take time. Quick fixes, crash diets, and fads might be quick in term of weight loss, but in my opinion, are not possible to sustain.

dr barry sears, the zone, book review

This is where the work of Dr. Barry Sears comes in, and his new book that I’ve been reviewing; The Mediterranean Zone. Author the The Zone, a New York Times bestseller, Sears has strived to not be an author of diet books, but that of lifestyle changes that work toward reducing inflammation in the body. Originally writing for the medical profession, Sears, a world leading medical researcher, has set about educating firstly cardiologists, then the wider world, about the effect food has on our hormones and that subsequent effect on our waistlines.

Moving forward from the original Zone blueprint, The Mediterranean Zone works on the notion that the Mediterranean way of eating has some great medical benefits, and it’s reported to be one of the most effective ways to combat heart disease and even Alzheimer’s. As per usual, there is a lot of hype and media surrounding the Mediterranean ‘diet’ and The Mediterranean Zone aims to break this down into more of an understandable lifestyle to follow – it’s not as simple having a glass of red wine with dinner!!

One thing I have to note about this book is that it’s incredibly detailed. Not only a book of meal plans and recipe suggestions, The Mediterranean Zone is an education in the body’s hormonal response to food and some fascinating facts and figures.

Now, if I go into all the depths of hormone reaction to food, this will turn into an essay, not a blog post. In a nutshell, hormones determine how the inflammatory genes function in the body. These hormones can be control by your diet, and if they become unbalanced, this can lead to chronic disease and premature ageing.

The Mediterranean Zone

Following both The Zone and The Mediterranean Zone are not complicated. It’s starts by dividing your plate into three equal sections. One for low-fat protein (animal or otherwise) and the other two for colourful carbohydrates. But we’re not talking pasta or rice, but primarily non-starchy vegetables or fruits. Any starchy carbohydrates should be minimal, and always of the wholemeal variety, lowering glycaemic load of the meal. A dash of fat can be added, mono-unsaturated in the form of avocado, nuts etc. The Mediterranean diet is naturally high in polyphenols, colourful fruit and vegetables consumed across the Mediterranean region, and also high in mono-unsaturated ‘good’ fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Following this template should stabilise your blood-sugar levels and keep you full and satisfied for 5 hours after your meal. Dr Sears uses the following pyramid to explain:

dr barry sears, the zone, book review

Following this in-depth explanation of The Mediterranean Zone and its benefits, Sears then goes on to provide meal plans and recipes to follow to find The Zone. The book also includes nutrient value tables, including that of polyphenols, and dietary recommendations for men and women.

As a highly visual person, the one drawback for me is the lack of imagery in this book. As what I’d call an educational book, rather than a recipe book, there are no shots of plates of food, prepared by a food stylist, enticing you to create the delicious recipes. Other than that, if you’re interested not only in a change of lifestyle, but also in the inner-workings of the body’s hormonal responses to food, then The Mediterranean Zone is a great way to increase your knowledge on the subject.

It’s never a ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to nutrition, and I’m a fan of doing what suits your body. The Mediterranean Zone does make sense however, for those who don’t want to exclude any major nutrient groups and still enjoy a varied diet. It can also be adapted to other dietary choices such as paleo, making it quite versatile as a lifestyle.

The Mediterranean Zone is available directly from Hammersmith Books , and with the code medzone1 you can get it for just £4.99! As a handy accompaniment to The Mediterranean Zone, Enerzone have a range of products designed to complement The Zone Diet Strategy, including supplements. Simply comment below for the chance to WIN this 6-pack of Crispy Vanilla Snack bars!

dr barry sears, the zone, book review