Saturday, 6 June 2015

Nutrition & Weight Management

OK, so I've just found this post that I wrote absolutely ages ago, like last October straight out of Uni. Not sure why I didn't publish it straight away, but this subject has become even more relevant now, considering my job - I work as a Nutritionist Advisor with one of my roles involving producing healthy lifestyle content for a blog, which means I come across what I talk about below every single day on other sites/social media. Bit of a ramble though, but a topic that I'm really passionate about, so I hope you enjoy reading...

I've noticed recently just how much misinformation there is out there concerning nutrition and weight loss - it's pretty scary to be honest. I've just finished my Nutritional Sciences masters and now want to work in improving the knowledge and ability of individuals who want to change their lifestyle. It's a tough job anyway, and the constant barrage of 'eat this!' or 'don't eat that!' certainly don't make it any easier for the professionals to be heard, and the majority of us to know who to listen to.

I thought I'd put a post together about ways to help you make sense of the never-ending onslaught of diet and exercise tips and re-focus your viewpoint so you find out what's best for you and work towards that healthier lifestyle. Eating well and getting enough exercise isn't easy, but with a bit of the right information and a positive outlook, it's not that hard either. 

Forget the numbers - focus on health!

Yes, weight is important - being overweight or obese leads to a greater chance of suffering from cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and a number of other conditions. However, getting hung up on what the scales say isn't likely to get you that far (or not in a healthy way at least). All those quick fixes that promise you'll be however many stones lighter in a month are just that: quick fixes and will probably end up being just as quickly reversed when you stop. 

Look at the bigger picture - aim for a healthy lifestyle that you can maintain. Weight loss/gain may be part of this, but there's no point getting to a goal weight just to think that's it, I can stop now. It just doesn't work like that. Small, realistic changes that add up to an overall healthier diet should be the aim. They're more likely to stick and one is likely is lead to another when you feel a positive difference.

So, to improve your diet, you could try eating one extra piece of fruit or veg a day. Incorporate it into something you already eat: I try and add a handful of frozen veg to pasta or rice a few minutes before it's finished cooking to add an extra bit of healthiness to a meal. 

The same principle works with exercise - forget the marathon for now and focus on walking an extra 15-30 minutes a day. Are there any journeys you'd use the car/bus for which you could probably walk? 

Trustworthy source or not?

Not everyone can be an expert in everything, that's perfectly understandable - we rely on others to get all the info we need. Nutrition is no different, yet we all need to know what we can eat to get the best out of our bodies. 

First tip is, if something sounds to good to be true it probably is. There was a recent headline suggesting that 'sunlight can make you thin'. Ummm what?? The fact that whoever wrote this is paid to be a journalist is a whole other issue I won't go into, but yeah, don't take everything at face value basically. This relates to the quick fixes that I mentioned earlier.

The main point I want to get across is to think about who is giving you the information. Do they have evidence-based nutritional knowledge? Could they have an ulterior motive as to why they're telling you something (e.g. so you'll buy whatever they're selling)? 

Those articles in newspapers, magazines etc. may have just been written by someone with no background knowledge who is trying to fill space. Check out someone's credentials or better still read the evidence for yourself. I get that that isn't possible for everyone, but if you are interested in the facts behind the headlines, NHS choices do some great posts that break down recent research into manageable chunks that help in understanding those confusing headlines.

Relationship advice

Our relationship with food and our bodies seems to have taken an ugly turn. I notice this particularly as a young woman but it applies to men as well of course - we're all aiming to be leaner/more muscular/curvier or whatever the current fashion is. This is a huge area and it encompasses so many areas, particularly psychology and the influence of others. 

So I thought I'd just finish this post off with what I try and live by, and how I manage to enjoy good food and exercise as part of my normal routine.

Because I do enjoy it. I absolutely love food, and from the stories I've been told by my family I've loved food pretty much since I could eat. Before I got into the science of Nutrition I wanted to be a Chef or something like that. I love exercising too - I danced growing up and now try and make sure I get a decent amount of time at the gym each week, doing aerobics and pilates classes. 

My general rule is only eat the food I like, and only do the exercise I enjoy. What's the point in wasting time on stuff that doesn't make you feel good?

A healthy lifestyle means balance, and moderation. These terms can mean different things to different people. I take it to mean having a diet predominantly composed of fruit, veg, good sources of protein like chicken and eggs, healthy fats and an amount of starchy carbs that gives me the energy I need without feeling overly full and uncomfortable. Plus I still enjoy foods considered less healthy alongside that. Just not too much, and not too often. Eating sweet food isn't terrible - I think it's pretty obvious from this blog that cake is one of my faves! Feeling guilty because you've eaten something is silly.

At the end of the day, food is fuel. It provides us with the nutrients we need to stay fit, energetic and able to do all the fantastic things we're capable of. So enjoy it, and embrace all the amazing things your body can do.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Laurent Binet - 'HHhH' & Markus Zusak - 'The Book Thief'

I thought I'd mention a couple of WWII books I've read recently. They're both interesting in the point of view they take, which gives an intriguing twist to the stories. I also felt like they had a theme in common; that of the task of writing and the power of words.

Ever since going to Berlin I've been really interested in learning more about the Second World War, particularly due to my interests in psychology. I remembered seeing this book when it came out and picked it up after finishing some of my exams a while ago.

HHhH depicts the events surrounding Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of the high-ranking Nazi Reinhard Heydrich in 1942 carried out by Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, two paratroopers from Czechoslovakia. The book explores the lives of the people involved and surrounding events, including Heydrich's role as part of the SS and the development of the assassination plan, from Britain to Prague. 

As well as giving an insight into these events to those unfamiliar with the specifics (such as myself), the book is also written in a style which sees the author switch between describing the history itself and his own journey to discovering this story, including his thoughts on trying to be faithful to the actual events that occurred. The observations on the actual process behind writing a book were fascinating to explore, particularly the difficulties of trying to writing a historical accurate scene. 

Overall, this is an entertaining account of the events and their circumstances, and it really got me thinking about the paratroopers actions in relation to current events. But I'd get a bit rambly if I went into all that, I think. 

The Book Thief, by comparison to HHhH, is fictional but uses the war as the backdrop for the story. The story is narrated by Death, and tells of a young German girl who goes to live with foster parents. Throughout she deals with the loss of her family, the struggle of learning to read, the development of a close relationship with her foster father, hiding a Jew in the family basement, along with the normal activities of a child: namely, trying to win at football with her best friend. 

She also steals books; these act as the initial challenges to conquer whilst learning to read, and become a way she can connect with those around her, especially when the war begins to hit its stride. 

I really enjoyed this book and the way it views the war through innocent eyes, alongside the other dramas of growing up and building relationships. Its sweet, sad and overall an enchanting read and I seriously recommend giving this book a go. 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Minestrone Soup

The last of the warm air is trickling away to be replaced by a brisk chill; grey clouds are gathering to shower trees whose leaves are stripped away by quickening gusts of wind:dressing the pavements in varying shades of gold.

Yep, it's definitely Autumn now which means soup is in order. This is my favourite soup, full of Italian flavours and delicious vegetables, that can be a meal in itself or served with warm, soft bread oozing melting butter.

This soup cooks quite quickly, but is fine to slow cook over a longer duration if you want to bring out the flavours more. It works well with loads of different vegetables so have fun trying out your favourites. For meat eaters, a couple of sausages can also be grilled, chopped and thrown in to the pan as well. For the pasta, there's lots of different ones to try. I used small shells in this one, but my favourite are tiny pasta stars as in the photo below.


Packed with veg, pasta and lots of Italian flavours, this hearty soup is perfect for cold evenings. Serve with garlic bread and a sprinkling of grated parmesan or cheddar.

Cake Crumbs & Ink Blots: Minestrone
Serves 4-6


  • Olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 1 reduced salt vegetable stock cube made up with 1 litre boiling water
  • 500g passata
  • 3 cups of vegetables - peas, pepper, carrot, courgette or whatever you fancy!
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning/basil/oregano
  • 1/2 cup small soup pasta


  1. Add oil, garlic and onion to large saucepan. Cover with lid and let soften for 5 minutes.
  2. Add stock, passata and vegetables, bring to the boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes until vegetables are soft. It will seem quite watery at this stage but the pasta will thicken it.
  3. Add the parmesan, seasoning and pasta and continue to simmer until pasta is cooked through. Serve!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Goose Fair

Normally Goose Fair weekend signals the beginning of Autumn in Nottingham. The last few rays of warm sunshine that make up September are swept aside for the dark, crisp days that end quite suddenly.

But this didn't quite happen like that this year. Warm sunny days seem to want to hang on that little bit longer, and while I'm definitely not complaining, it was strange to not have to bundle up in gloves and scarves to make our way to the fair this year.

The atmosphere was still great though; no matter how old I get I think I'll always love the flashing lights on the rides against the night sky, the smells of burgers and candy floss and doughnuts, and the sounds of music and children on the rides.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Pontefino, Gunthorpe

Italian food is by far my favourite food - I grew up eating home-made gnocchi and pizza and could quite easily eat it everyday. It's also Tom's favourite and we're always on the lookout for a new Italian restaurant to try out.

Pontefino is out in Gunthorpe, Nottinghamshire, in a quiet residential area next to the River Trent - a lovely change to the bustle of town on a Friday night.

We started off with garlic pizza bread and arancini (risotto balls filled with mozzarella and fried). The bread was the thinnest, crispiest base lightly topped with garlic and tomato so wasn't too heavy to start with, while the arancini were packed with flavour and beautifully served with a dash of a tomato sauce.

Our mains consisted of the calzone rustica, which had a perfect crust and was absolutely stuffed with prosciutto, cheeses, and spinach; and linguine alla Sofia Loren (I'll admit it was the name that initially caught my eye!). The linguine was coated in the type of sauce I almost always end up choosing - creamy tomato with just a hint of chilli and a sprinkling of chicken, pepperoni and olives.

We were both so full by this point but couldn't resist dessert (I'm pretty sure there's a special stomach just for dessert anyway so we couldn't leave it unsatisfied, could we?). Pannacotta arrived in a huge wine glass, smooth and creamy with a fruity berry coulis adding a tangy contrast.

Overall the food was some of the tastiest, most flavourful I've had out in a while and we agreed while still devouring pasta and calzone that we definitely needed to bring family and friends here. Service always makes a place for me and everyone was friendly and welcoming, so a winner all round!

Sorry for the lack of photos of the food; I don't really enjoy taking pictures while I'm eating out any more, apart from the odd one here and there.

Have you discovered any new restaurants recently?

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Women of Intention

I wanted to share some of the ladies in rock who are fairly new on the scene and have been playing on repeat for me recently, but then it got kinda difficult to narrow it down to just a few. There are so many bad ass women in music at the moment, broadcasting their talent through amazing songs and mind blowing shows. During the difficult events occurring as we struggle towards a world where gender equality is the norm, involving sometimes confusing and sometimes sad and disheartening moments, it's inspiring to know that their are women who are doing exactly what they want on their terms. And of course, making bloody brilliant music while they're at it.

Deap Vally

If you haven't checked out Deap Vally's debut album 'Sistrionix' then you really need to get on it. I'd been hearing about this band last year around festival season; their names kept cropping up alongside the likes of Queens of the Stone Age and Jack White. I looked them up on YouTube and instantly fell in love. If you want raw, straight to the point, bluesy rock then these two women have got it covered. I saw them live last year at the Basement, Rock City, and it was such a fun show - I'll definitely be at their next one. For these gals the music speaks for itself so give them a listen.

The Beaches

I saw The Beaches earlier this year as they opened up for Brody Dalle on her UK tour and they're probably one of the best support acts I've seen. I picked up their EP after the gig and they've since released another one, both of which I love. Despite their young age these girls are seriously good live and write really great, catchy rock songs.


Rouge are a band from London who I discovered on Twitter through being a fan of Deap Vally. I think they messaged me saying I might like their stuff and they were right! They write blues-inspired rock songs with gorgeous vocals and I'm looking forward to hearing more from these guys.

And I can't do this post without mentioning Brody Dalle

She's not new to the music world - she fronted the Distillers and Spinnerette - but only came out with her first record under her own name this year. She's matured and branched out in terms of her sound but is still that punk rocker I was first inspired by back in the Distillers. Brody is definitely one of those women who is not afraid to express herself and stick up for what she thinks is right. Basically, she's amazing and I love her. 

I'm gonna shut up now so you can check out some of my favourite ladies in rock.
Any recommendations you have for other musicians please let me know, I'm always on the lookout for new music! :) 
*photos of The Beaches & Rouge taken from their sites

Monday, 22 September 2014

Lost in Desserts

What better way to celebrate finishing the end of my Nutritional Sciences course than by a huge amount of sugar, chocolate and cream? OK so kinda contradictory but it's definitely all about balance when it comes to food and health in my opinion. And every last bite of these were worth the extra gym session I'm probably gonna need to fit in this week.

I drove down to Leicester to meet up with a friend from my course for end of year celebrations. We'd both had our ups and downs throughout the year but could finally say we'd got through the course together! She introduced me to a place in the city called Heavenly Desserts - this place definitely lives up to that. Apparently she'd tried to visit before but people were queuing outside (and this is quite common to get in?!) so had decided to wait before trying again. Thankfully we didn't have to queue and got a table in the restaurant straight away before being handed the book of a menu to choose from. You can get waffles, crepes, cookie dough, sundaes, milkshakes, shots of Belgian chocolate... let's just say it took me a while to pick. I finally went for white chocolate and raspberry cookie dough, which was served warm so the chocolate was melting and the cookie gooey, and topped with ice cream, cream and fresh raspberries. Oh. My. God. So good. And I was very glad that I'd only had a salad earlier so I could leave room for all that chocolatey goodness.

A couple of days later, back in Nottingham, my best friend treated me to a dessert plate from The Cheesecake Shop to say congrats (I have the best friends ever :)). I chose the strawberry shortcake cheesecake topped with curls of white chocolate and it was served with fresh fruit and a dollop of cream. I've been to the cheesecake shop a few times as it's fairly local and it has to be one of my favourite places to get pudding. The mudcakes they do are seriously tasty as well. There's quite a few around Nottinghamshire but I'm not sure about the rest of the UK, but definitely worth a visit if you're round here.

So it's a been a weekend of stuffing my face (and enjoying every last bit of it) but I think I'm definitely gonna feel better after a good Aerobics session this evening ha.
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