Healthy Breakfast Idea #1 Chia and Raspberry Porridge

Pumpkin seeds give a wonderful crunch to this cold porridge...
Pumpkin seeds give a wonderful crunch to this cold porridge…

So in lieu of what promised to be a heavy(ier) weekend, on both the eating and the drinking front, I decided to make Saturday morning as healthy a start as possible. This was all in the knowledge of two meals out and several gin and tonics (and/or wines) to contend with. Awake at dawn, for some inexplicable reason, I decided to get a healthy breakfast prepared for when I came back from my morning run. Again, this was another sly manoeuvre –  all in the name of damage-limitation.

Contrary to how it might sound above, I really don’t mind sacrificing a day or two from my health(ier) regime for family occasions or drinks in a pub. It’s just that in the past, that could have been an excuse to forgo all healthy eating in the run up to the event just because I knew I would be dining out and what’s the point of eating a bowl of fruit for breakfast when you’re having a pub lunch, just start with a fry-up now or it would have been the start of a very slippery slope. One that winds up with me drinking alcohol most evenings and demolishing family packs of greasy crisps…then eating biscuits and cakes in the week just because I let my (rather short) hair down for the weekend.

Well, this weekend, I have had my weekend. I had a Friday-night takeaway and wine; I had gnocchi; I had birthday cake (at least twice!); I had a slab of chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce and hazelnut ice-cream; I had chips; I had a fry up with two sausages and white bread, with a croissant and jam chaser; I had crisps; and I washed the whole lot down with at least one bottle of white wine and several gin and tonics. Do I feel guilty? No, not really. This is because I knew I laid good foundations with my salads at work this week and with my physical activity. I also felt the metaphorical return of light and brightness to my health-food halo when I went food shopping and stocked up on broccoli, avocado, butternut squash, spinach and salads; it was a good feeling because I knew I was back in control. I’m making a cleansing green soup for dinner tonight, packed full of veggies to help re-nutrify my body and get it ready for the week ahead.

One of the reasons that I feel able to regain control is the fact that I made a healthy start to my weekend. I had a cold Chia Seed and Raspberry Porridge. And it was delicious. It sat marinating in my fridge, whilst I went for my run and was perfect with a cup of tea – it was cold on Saturday morning – when I got back. I am a big fan of the tapioca texture derived from simmering chia seeds in with my porridge but knew time would be precious when I got back so I bit the bullet and tried them soaked, but without cooking. I’m glad I did, because I suspect this mixture works well over night and will be welcome in summer when I have relinquished my grasp on steaming bowls of oats.

To prepare: put about two handfuls of raspberries in a bowl and mash with a fork. Drizzle in a little honey at this stage to balance the tangy bite from the fruit. Add two tablespoons of porridge oats, a tablespoon of chia seeds and just cover with milk. You could use almond, hazelnut or rice milk I guess, but I went for good old semi-skimmed. Leave this in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and then add some more oats, a drizzle more honey and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds for some much-needed crunch. With the protein hit from the chia seeds and milk and vitamins from the fruit, I felt it was the perfect remedy to an early start with exercise. It would also be great with a blob of Greek yoghurt.

Enjoy!

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Healthy Lunch Idea #3 Butternut Squash and Feta Salad

Pumpkin seeds add delicious crunch...
Pumpkin seeds add delicious crunch…

I have to admit, I’ve been making a bit of an effort this week where lunch is concerned. Ok. Not a bit: a lot. It has been time-consuming and has created extra washing up both in terms of the utensils and pots to prepare the food and the plastic tubs that need washing at the end of every day. Has it been worth it? Yes. I certainly feel like I can wear my food halo with pride and relish my inner smugness at avoiding the carb overload that is the canteen.

I have found that preparing enough food for a few days is the way forward with this one. Nobody wants to be faced with extra washing up every night. Having a salad ready-to-go in the fridge the night before means that mornings are freed up and there is no excuse to buy unhealthy convenience foods en route to work. Or try to survive a day on flapjacks, cookies, cakes, crisps etc. I have also discovered that the must-buy to healthy eating at work is a lunchbox. Allow me to indulge in a little nostalgia here. I had a Ninja Turtles lunchbox when I was at primary school and it was cool – I even liked it when the picture on the front went a little crinkly and started to peel off with too much vigorous washing. Anyway. You also need some of those mini gel packs that you can pop in the freezer to keep your food cool and I recommend a tiny plastic pot or jar to keep your dressing separate until you eat. Nobody in their right mind likes soggy salad leaves.

Whilst admittedly still in its infancy, my new-found love of portable healthy lunches has kicked off to a good start and I have decided to share one of my ideas here for all of those people looking for ways to boost their daily vitamin and mineral intake, as well as trying to attain the holy grail of healthy eating: the five-a-day. It is essentially a collection of salady things: rocket, roasted vegetables, feta, tomatoes and cucumber with a sprinkling of olives, tossed over a bed of bulgur wheat and drizzled with a homemade tangy dressing. I’m fairly new to bulgur wheat and was intrigued by its promise of being high in fibre and protein, as well as packing a punch nutritionally with iron and B vitamins, along with vitamin E. It also tastes great along with the other items in this dish.

To prepare this salad, roast chunks of butternut squash in the oven for about 45 minutes, until golden and cooked through. You can add any flavourings here, like chilli flakes, thyme, salt and pepper etc. Simmer some bulgar wheat until cooked according to the instructions on the packet. Then layer up your salad with some iron-boosting rocket, some lycopene-loving tomatoes and cool slices of cucumber with a sprinkling of olives. Last but not least, a healthy crumble of feta cheese over the top – but not too much! Prepare a lemony dressing in a small pot of jar with olive oil, lemon juice and a blob of honey, which can be shaken and poured over the salad before eating.

When eating: sit back, relax and be safe in the knowledge that you are doing your body a favour and providing it with the fuel it needs to get through a busy afternoon. It also becomes easier to resist the biscuit tin in the afternoon if you are making an effort with lunch!