Category Archives: healthy eating

New year, new start, new post

Nothing quite like the 1st of January (or, ahem, the 5th of January), of a brand spanking new year to kick-start (or kick-resume, in actual fairness to myself) a healthy living regime. Yes, I am that cliche, how embarrassing for me.

resolution

But, regardless of how ridiculous new years’ resolutions can seem, particularly when viewed through the lens of years of dismal failures, it’s almost impossible NOT to make them. There’s no denying there’s a reason it all happens on January 1st.

Yes, yes, yes there’s obviously something very alluring about the fact that it’s a brand new year, a brand new month, a nice blank canvas upon which you can start to paint the masterpiece of your year ahead – your best work to date.

However, let’s face it – it’s almost 100% due to the fact that you’ve just spent one whole month (or maybe two if you’re particularly precocious) poisoning your body and mind with too much fun. Boozey fun. And chocolate. And booze filled chocolate. And, em, probably some cheese.

And so, when the 1st of January dawns upon the candy wrapper and champagne bottle-strewn wreckage of the holiday season, you feel so diseased and disgusting you determine that you will henceforth become THE 2015 HEALTHIEST HUMAN BEING THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN.

My other new year’s resolution is to set loftier goals for myself.

The good news is I’ve been living the healthy lifestyle already, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get back into the swing of things. I know my last post stopped on Day 43, but it was more to do with limited time as opposed to falling off the wagon. (Since I last wrote I managed to give up sugar for 5 weeks! More on this to come in another post, as I’m going to attempt to do the same thing again.)

So, here I am, back on the 100 healthy days challenge, on Day 1.

Wish me luck!

Mx

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Day 43: Strategies for eating out in San Francisco

As anyone living in San Francisco will tell you, this is the best city to come to if you are a foodie. Not only are there amazing restaurants and food trucks, but also talking about food (and being a ‘foodie’) is a legitimate past-time…As well as blogging about food, instagramming food, yelping about restaurants. You even start to choose a potential date based upon how much they like to eat out!

foodie

Food plays an integral part of the socialising over here, and I love it!

(But not to the point where I instagram my food. I’m not that much of a douchey Foodie. Anyone else so bored by this?)

Obviously, however, to eat the healthiest you need to be at home cooking your own meals, so you know exactly what you’re eating.

BORING!!! How depressing would that be? Can you imagine turning down an opportunity to try out the latest hip restaurant in favour of eating a bowl of kale and broiled chicken on your tod. You’d want to kill yourself!

(Oh my God, I have the feeling that sounds like something a douchey Foodie would say).

So, really, if you want to go out and have a social life AND be healthy, you just have to get clever and have a few strategies up your sleeve. These are the ones I’m trying out for myself

1. Choose and reserve the restaurant beforehand.

Because there are so many options in San Francisco, it can get overwhelming and difficult to make a decision about where to eat – especially when you’re out and about. And when that happens you inevitably spend a good hour walking around in circles, until you get hangry, then you panic, have a fight with your dinner companions and end up storming into the nearest taqueria for a burrito, that you eat in a huff.

This is not fun for anyone and can lose you some friends.

So, instead do your research and choose the restaurant online beforehand. If you’re going with a group, offer to find and reserve for everyone. They’ll love you for it. My go-to in SF is OpenTable or Yelp (sorry Google+…).

Any other good sites out there?

2. If you can’t choose the restaurant, look at the menu before you go

Most restaurants will have their menus available online, so you can plan exactly what to order in advance. By doing that, you save yourself from getting swept up in the ordering frenzy and going for something unhealthy.

3. Load up on veg beforehand

Maybe even just before you go out. The French or Italians would freak at the thought of potentially ruining your meal by eating so close to dinner-time, but don’t mind them. It’s survival tactics here. And they’ve probably had 12 chocolate pastries already today.

4. Choose your vice

There are many fun things to indulge in at dinner – the bread, the wine, the pasta dishes the dessert. Decide which two of the four you want and don’t go near the others. Ie if you have wine and bread, avoid the tortellini and tiramisu.

5. Go for whole foods

Go for the steak, chicken or fish. They’ll be the healthiest because you know they probably won’t have added anything nasty into them.

This week is jam-packed with dinner dates, so I’ll get an opportunity to try out these tactics myself.

Tonight’s restaurant was Bistro Aix, in the Marina. This is a charming place, with great food, beautiful wine (chosen by the very dashing Johnny, who works there) and a lovely atmosphere. Complete with an indoor tree! I love indoor trees like you wouldn’t believe.

i had one slice of the bread, wine, beet and goat’s cheese salad and lamb meatballs with baby potatoes. I avoided the dessert, as per rule number 4. It looked so decadent…

Let’s see how I get on with the other dinners!

Day 42: Combatting sugar cravings with water

For a while now I’ve been battling some serious sugar cravings. Have you ever experienced this? The ‘can’t sit still at your desk, about to claw your nails down your face or throw someone down the stairs just to get to the granola jar faster’ kind of feeling.

sugar

When I first started the challenge I didn’t suffer from this at all. I actually wrote a post on Day 13 about the evils of breakfast cereal and boasted about the fact that I was able to breeze past the jars in work, and not be tempted to grab some.

Oh how cocky and naive I was!

What happened? Why am I suddenly afflicted like this? What was I doing differently back then?

Thinking back, I was more motivated, certainly – I was all keen to do the best job I could with the 100 Healthy Days Challenge. All the enthusiasm of someone starting out on a new project.

But I don’t think motivation, or lack thereof, is the reason.

What I really think was different was the water I was drinking. I was making a massive effort to drink water and herbal teas – nettle, dandelion and mint predominantly.

So, as an experiment I decided to drown myself with water and tea today. I constantly made sure I had a bottle of water and a herbal tea on the go. I probably drank more than I would normally, or felt like I needed.

And, good news – I didn’t have any sugar cravings today! I was once again able to breeze past the granola jar, mentally giving it the middle finger and a big #$% you. I’m hesitant to start the celebrations just yet. All too often I think I’ve solved my sugar issues, only to find myself nose deep in a cereal bowl.

Let’s just call this an interesting observation. And let’s just try it again tomorrow and see how we get on.

This is going to be my strategy for upping my water intake:

  • Keeping a large glass of water by my bedside and drinking the full thing as soon as I wake up in the morning.
  • Whenever I have a coffee, I’ll make sure to have a glass of water with it. Italians do this in bars all the time!
  • Drink water flavoured with natural fruit – we have lots of this in work. The new thing is basil flavoured water. Kids these days!
  • Carry a bag big enough to fit a bottle of water and make sure I have one when going out.

FYI – I also tried the below things as well, which apparently have an impact on blood sugar and sugar cravings.

  1. I did not eat any fruit
  2. I started taking a good probiotic
  3. I started taking Omega 3s
  4. I put cinnamon on everything!
  5. I upped the protein and healthy fat amounts in my salad – extra chicken, avocado and added in pumpkin seeds and olive oil

Fingers crossed we can have another good day tomorrow!

Food and Exercise

  • Snack: 10 almonds
  • Exercise: 45 mins spin with light weights
  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs (made with olive oil), steamed egg whites, chia seeds, steamed mustard greens and kale, raw peppers, large coffee with half and half
  • Lunch: Green salad, with chicken, avocado, olive oil, apple cider vinegar
  • Snack: Hummus with crudites – including PURPLE CAULIFLOWER
  • Dinner: Kale salad, cherry tomatoes, sweet potato, cannelini beans, goat’s cheese, olive oil and apple cider vinegar
It's PURPLE

It’s PURPLE

Day 41: Ode to Spaghetti Squash

Since moving to San Francisco, my new favourite thing in life* is spaghetti squash. This is, in my mind, the savior that will rid the world of the evils of processed carbs and gluten.

spaghetti squash

This baby deserves a fist pump for being so healthy

For those of you unfamiliar, spaghetti squash is not pasta made from or with squash. It’s actually a VEGETABLE, itself a member of the squash family, and looks like this:

I'm a spaghetti squash, not a melon

I’m a spaghetti squash, not a melon

And when you cook it, it kind of looks like this:

Pretty standard, nothing to write home about yet

Pretty standard, nothing to write home about yet

And, then, this is where the magic happens; when you take a fork and rake it down the flesh of the cooked spaghetti squash, you get this:

Here's one I made earlier.  The pic doesn't do it justice.

Here’s one I made earlier. The pic doesn’t do it justice.

In other words, long strands that look and act exactly like spaghetti!!

The sheer and utter beauty of the spaghetti squash, lies in the fact that you don’t even need to use any fancy gadget, like a spiralizer, to turn the flesh it into strands. IT DOES IT BY ITSELF! And, to top it all off, you can cook it in the microwave and it’s ready in 15 minutes.

The discovery of spaghetti squash has pretty much changed my life for the better.

I am a pasta-fiend. I grew up in an Italian/Irish(Canadian/Scottish) household and while all my Irish friends were chowing down on Irish stew, Shepherd’s Pie or other meat, veg and potato combos, I was twirling and slurping my way through parmesan laden pasta dishes. To me, it’s the ultimate comfort food and reminds me of home.

But, of course, pasta is not necessarily the healthiest of dishes. All that icky gluten can cause reactions, and too many carbs give you back-fat (scientific term), so it can’t really feature regularly in a healthy eating regime, except as a treat. Cue 😦

But this is where spaghetti squash comes in! You get the bulk and strand-like consistency of spaghetti and you can pair it with all of your fave pasta sauces. Well, maybe not the carbonara…

The sad news is, I haven’t seen this outside of the US. Certainly not in Ireland anyway. My advice is to do anything you can to import/smuggle this sucker in – ethically and sustainably, of course.

(*I actually have multiple new favourite things in life since moving to San Francisco – bridges, Mission graffiti, margaritas, people watching in Dolores Park, farmer’s markets…I’m loving this city more and more every day).

Food and Exercise

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, with goat’s cheese, avocado and smoked salmon
  • Lunch: Smoked salmon, tbsp hummus and avocado
  • Snack: Chia seed pudding (chia seeds, almond milk, vanilla essence) with stewed apple
  • Dinner: Spaghetti squash with tomato sauce, green salad, enochi mushrooms, 2x small pieces of bread with cheese, glass of wine (all homemade by Venessa – such a treat!)
  • Exercise: none – I was still to tired!!

 

Day 40: Ending a week of bad living

The most appropriate way to end a week of bad living – eating poorly, no exercising, general slovenliness-  is with a hangover.

Whilst it’s no fun for anyone, it serves two purposes:

  1. It’s a fitting punishment for the crime- after a week of abusing my body with food and unhealthy activities, I deserve to feel the effects of my bad behaviour in a physical way.
  2. It’s motivation to start leading a healthy lifestyle again.
Yes, I deserve it

Yes, I deserve it

Thinking about it, hangovers are actually excellent motivators for living a healthy life.

As you’re lying on the couch, with last night’s make up still caked on your face and that little stamp on your hand from that dodgy club, you’re filled with so much fear, shame and self-loathing that the only way to dig yourself out of it, is to promise yourself that it will Never. Happen. Again. And that starting from now you won’t drink any more, you’ll eat healthfully, cook from scratch, exercise daily, meditate every morning, spend quality time with your family, donate to charity, volunteer in the community and be the best damn human being you can be!

…Actually, let’s start from tomorrow. The take out is on the way and you’ve just accidentally eaten half the packet of cookies belonging to your roommate and being honest, you’re probably going to go in for a second round.

So, my advice to anyone looking to become healthier is to go out immediately, neck 10 margaritas, don’t eat dinner, dance on some tables, maybe kiss the barman and then watch your life magically transform for the better.

(NOTE: As always, I’m being slightly melodramatic. I actually wasn’t that hungover. I didn’t drink that much, but I was still exhausted and emotional, possibly from a cold. And I also think I’m allergic to alcohol!!! 😦 )

(NOTE #2: The night before the hangover was spent at the Hozier concert. He was playing the Regency Ballroom in SF, which is a brilliant venue. Small enough for it to feel intimate, pretty theatre-like building, ample bar staff. If you don’t know him, check him out. His voice is amazing. And he’s Irish. So, obviously I love him even more!)

Hozier, the big ride!

Hozier, the big ride!

So, what caused the week of bad living that ended with a hangover? God, what ever causes it?!? I always have so many theories on the subject. It could have been any and all of the below.

  • Out of my regular routine
  • Dehydrated
  • Time of the month
  • Sugary breakfasts
  • Busy at work
  • Exhaustion
  • Too many carbs
  • Not enough carbs

Suffice to say it happened and I got a hangover that caused sufficient pain, heart-ache and general self-loathing to prompt me into affirmative action. Once again. Yes everyone, once again I am hopping back onto the wagon, having yet again fallen off it.

But sure, as I learned this week (in an interesting talk on film-making that I attended), you need conflict for any great story with a happy ending. And if this challenge was going to be easy there wouldn’t be a point to it. The only thing I can do is dust the crumbs off, buy some brussel sprouts and get right back to it!

Food and exercise

Not going to get into the details of what I ate. But, randomly, the first thing I did when I woke up with my hangover was make Chia Seed pudding, which is what I’ve been wanting to do for ages.

Gelatinous muck or tasty breakfast? Maybe a combo of both.

I admit, it looks disgusting

I admit, it looks disgusting

Day 39: My list of must-watch food documentaries

I’ve always been really interested in health, wellness and nutrition. I devour any and all articles or videos on the topic that I can get my hands on. Most of the companies and personalities that I follow on social media are health and wellness sites or gurus.

(There’s also a healthy (arguably unhealthy) dose of reality TV stars in there as well. My guilty pleasure. Yes you, TOWIE.)

I’m also really interested in relaying the random health facts that I learn, back to my friends and family – spewing them up just as they’re about to sink their teeth into something amazingly tasty, fatty, sugary and unhealthy. Much to their annoyance, unsurprisingly.

annoying

”Ohhhh, you’re eating non-organic pumpkin spice ice-cream, are you?!’, I exclaim. ‘I just read a funny story about that, last week.’

This would inevitably lead to me being glared at across the table, and perhaps a spoon being flung in my direction.

‘It’s probably not a funny story Michelle,’ they would reply. ‘It’s actually probably a very,very sad story. So, please, please, please just shut your pie-hole and let me eat my unhealthy, yes, but extraordinarily tasty pumpkin-spice ice-cream, in peace. You are ruining eating for me.’

Needless to say, I’ve stopped sharing my health facts at meal-times.

But the more I read and watch, the more I want to talk about it! This is true, in particular, when it comes to my latest obsession – the secrets of the processed food industry and the failure of the regulatory bodies to regulate. I’m truly shocked at what I’ve learned recently – how the big food companies are doing their best to hide what’s going into their products, how they trick the public into thinking there are nutritional benefits, and how they load everything with sugar to get people hooked! It’s criminal, in my mind.

Note, this is particularly bad in the US – it would appear that the food restrictions here, related to additives, are not as tight as they are in the EU or elsewhere.

I’m not even going to try to relate back the nuggets of information I picked up on this topic- I’m not a scientist, doctor or dietitian and I would probably get the facts entirely wrong.

Instead, I’ve listed out three really great documentaries I’ve watched recently on the topic. These are must-watch if you’re interested in health and are curious about what goes on in the food industry, behind the scenes.

All three approach the topic slightly differently, but for me, the one overriding message in all of them is that processed food is making people sick and the only way to stay healthy is to stick to ‘real’ food – as close to its natural state as possible.

And this message has definitely had an impact on the way I eat. I now always check food labels for wacky ingredients and I rarely (if at all) buy heavily processed items. Even the granola I binge on is all-natural, with nothing artificial in it.

So, have a watch. These are all available on Netflix or Google Play.

Fed Up: “Everything we’ve been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years is dead wrong. FED UP is the film the food industry doesn’t want you to see.” (Scariest fact from this film is that some companies put sugar into baby food, to get people hooked from the beginning!!!)

Crazy Sexy Cancer: “In 2003, when I was a 31-year-old actress/photographer, I was diagnosed with a rare and incurable cancer. Weeks later I began filming my story. Taking a seemingly tragic situation and turning it into a creative expression, I share my cancer documentary of survival with courage, strength and lots of humor.”

Food Matters: “With nutritionally-depleted foods, chemical additives and our tendency to rely upon pharmaceutical drugs to treat what’s wrong with our malnourished bodies, it’s no wonder that modern society is getting sicker. Food Matters sets about uncovering the trillion dollar worldwide ‘sickness industry’ and gives people some scientifically verifiable solutions for overcoming illness naturally.”

Food and exercise:

There's Quinn cooking up a storm. Amazing tacos!

There’s Quinn cooking up a storm. Amazing tacos!

  • Breakfast: Greek yogurt, apple, pear, chia seeds, pecans, almonds
  • Exercise: Barry’s Bootcamp. Soooo tough! 10 x sprints on the treadmill. Felt like puking
  • Snack: Peanut butter and unsweetened almond milk smoothie. OMGawd it’s good.
  • Lunch: Salad from Wholefoods – lettuce and veg with prawns, feta cheese and olives with balsamic and olive oil.
  • Snack: Rye bread, tortilla chips and hummus
  • Dinner: Beef tacos made by Quinn – he grilled the beef and peppers. So yum and fresh!
  • Drinks: prosecco, 1 vodka tonic and 1 beer
  • Snack: Tortilla chips and hummus
  • Comment: It could have ended with a burrito.

Day 38: Tips from Friends – Erin

Day 38, and I bring you my second installment of ‘Tips From Friends.’ Sometimes the best, most actionable advice for healthy living comes from the people around you.

Today’s tips come from my friend Erin, a Bay Area native. It’s quite rare to meet someone who is actually from here- so many people living in San Francisco are from other places. This is something that makes San Francisco super interesting to live in, but it’s always nice hanging out with someone who has the inside scoop on the fun things to do – both in the city and the surrounding area.

Click to picture below to watch the video. We even caught some of the Blue Angels practice in the background. Really cool! The Blue Angels come to SF for Fleet Week every October – basically an air show, with lots of stunts. There are also a lot of sailors in town as part of this…it’s a fun time for everyone! 😉

Click here to watch a video of Erin's healthy tips!

Click here to watch a video of Erin’s healthy tips!

If you don’t want to watch the video, here are her tips.

1. Take advantage of the many steep staircases in the city

  • The Lyon Street Steps, in The Presidio, are Erin’s favourite and the most well-known. (Erin was the second person to mention these to me this week. My friend Isabel wants to start a regular run there)
  • You can run or walk them – it’s all good exercise
  • It’s great for people watching!

2. Eat Californinian fresh produce and take advantage of companies like The Urban Pantry

  • The fresh fruit and veg in California is second to none, so take advantage
  • Use companies like The Urban Pantry, or Plated, who will deliver you organic food, all portioned out, so it makes cooking super easy! (I am definitely doing this – it will make cooking on tired days a lot more manageable)

3. Attend sporting events for motivation to get active

  • There are so many amazing sports teams in the area (Go Giants!)
  • Whenever Erin attends a game she’s super motivated to get outside and pick up a ball or tennis racket and get active (way better than drinking beer and eat hot dogs, which would probably have been the first thing I would want to do!)

Food and Exercise

  • Breakfast: Blueberries, Chia Seed paste (delish),greek yogurt, some granola, pineapple, coffee
  • Lunch: Salad with baked salmon
  • Snack: Banana
  • Exercise: Barry’s Bootcamp. Intervals. Lots of steep intervals.
  • Dinner: Gluten free pizza and salad.
  • Comment: Good day all round – the pizza was healthified. And I went to the cinema and had no snacks, which would have been the norm!

    Chia seed paste. Fascinating. You soak chia seeds overnight in almond milk or some other liquid and it becomes gelatinous. Actually delicious!

    Chia seed paste. Fascinating. You soak chia seeds overnight in almond milk or some other liquid and it becomes gelatinous. Actually delicious!