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  • Carrot and tomato soup

    Usually the preserve of winter, when the summer weather turns grey and wet there is nothing better than soup to warm you up. I made this delicious carrot and tomato soup last night, and it was so good I thought I should share it!

    Serves 2

    1 large carrot

    10 cherry tomatoes

    Half a large butternut squash

    1 sweet potato

    2 tbsp coconut oil

    Sea salt

    Black pepper

    2 cloves of garlic

    1 thumb size piece of grated ginger

    1 tsp smoked paprika

    0.5 tsp chilli powder

    750ml vegetable stock (I use Kallo Organic)

    1 tbsp tomato puree

    Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

    Peel the sweet potato, carrot and squash, and then chop into chunks and place onto a baking tray with the cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with melted coconut oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for around 40 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

    Once the veg is done put it all into a blender with the vegetable stock, garlic, ginger, smoked paprika, chilli and tomato puree and blend until smooth.

    Place the blended soup into a large pan and heat through until hot enough to serve.

    Enjoy!

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  • Dealing with stress

    Everyone has stressful times in their lives, whether that is caused by a job, a relationship, financial concerns, or any number of other reasons. What is important, however, is how we deal with it.

    In the short-term an element of stress can be a good thing, with low levels of stress appearing to aid our immune system to respond better and become stronger. Providing we are recognising and managing our stress there is little to worry about, as stress is an unavoidable part of life at times. However, it is when stress gets out of control that action needs to be taken.

    When confronted with a stressful situation many people attempt to ignore it and effectively bury their heads in the sand. By doing so they could actually be making the situation a whole lot worse as this can lead to an increasing build-up of tension and anxiety. As stress levels rise, the ability to rationally cope with the issue will tend to diminish, fuelling a further increase in stress. If not controlled in time, the results of unrelenting high stress can include chronic illness, family and relationship breakdowns, and addiction to ‘coping mechanisms’ such as wine and cigarettes.

    Of course the best way to avoid this is to take steps to understand your stress and to manage it, and thankfully this is easier than it sounds.

    The first step is to understand exactly what is stressing you and why, and to also recognise that, regrettably, some causes of stress can’t be changed. Although it is often the case that just by recognising this you may find that the situation becomes somewhat more manageable.

    So, how can you deal with stress?

    Challenge your thoughts

    More often than not it is our perception of a situation that causes the stress rather than the actual situation itself. If you feel like you can’t cope at work, and you reinforce that view with your daily thoughts and actions, then you will be unable to cope at work. By challenging your perception, believing that you can cope and that you will find a positive solution, you will find that this is exactly what will happen.

    Plan, plan, plan

    Ever heard the quote ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail’? There is considerable truth in this. By planning and structuring tasks we feel more in control of them and can complete them before they cause us any additional worry or concern.

    Set some goals

    This is a key way to help manage stress. Setting realistic, achievable goals can help us feel that we are making our way forwards in life, and that we are tackling issues such as being unhappy at work, or our desire to buy a home. By breaking these larger goals into smaller ‘stepping stone’ goals, we feel like we are accomplishing things every time we complete one, and we also have the satisfaction of getting ever closer to our end goal.

    Talk to someone

    Whether it is a friend, colleague or loved one, never underestimate the power that communicating your concerns can have in making you feel more in control. The idea that a problem shared is a problem halved is very true, and another perspective on your concerns can make you feel much more in control.

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  • The advantages of a good breakfast

    One of the most common complaints I hear from people embarking on a healthier way of life is that they just don’t have time, and in particular they don’t have time for breakfast. I’m often told that they could just about manage to pour some milk over some Frosties, but that they certainly don’t have time for any of that ‘twice toasted, rye sprouting, bee pollen topped healthy stuff’ in the morning.

    Firstly, let me tell you that a healthy breakfast can take just seconds to make, but I will come back to that in a bit..

    Secondly, let me say that breakfast is IMPORTANT. Research has shown that those who eat breakfast are more likely to make healthier choices throughout the day, probably because they are not starving by 11am and reaching for the nearest edible item, which more often than not tends to be a doughnut, chocolate bar or similar. Eating a good breakfast also gives you more energy and helps to increase your focus and concentration.

    Now, when I say breakfast is good, I mean a healthy breakfast, not ‘breakfast biscuits’, cereal and milk, or toast and jam. By eating refined carbs for breakfast you will cause a sugar surge, followed by a sugar crash and a craving for something sweet. Sugar is also known for creating inflammation in the body – the cause of many ailments and illnesses, from digestive issues to obesity. The answer then is to eat a balanced breakfast containing ‘good’ fats, protein and carbohydrate – giving your body slow release energy that it can use.

    By also making your choice from a range of natural ingredients, rather than processed foods such as protein bars or cereals, you are again giving your body the fuel it needs and can use effectively, while also providing yourself with a range of essential vitamins and minerals.

    So, here are a few ideas for quick, easy and healthy breakfasts you will love:

    1. Smoothies

    - If you’re really struggling for time then a smoothie is one of the quickest things you can make.

    - Simply put some unsweetened non-dairy milk – oat, almond etc (many people struggle to digest cows milk, and the chemicals used in processing can also add to inflammation) into a blender with plenty of green veg such as spinach or kale, a small amount of fruit – maybe a banana or some mango, some hemp or raw protein, a handful of nuts or nut butter, and blend it together. If you have them you can also add things like bee pollen or maca for additional nutrients.

    - There are loads of fab smoothie books on the market now for a range of ideas.

    2. Omelettes

    - A couple of eggs, some veg, seasoning and coconut oil, a couple of minutes in a pan and you have an omelette. It doesn’t get much simpler.

    3. Greek yogurt

    - If you can tolerate dairy then Greek yogurt with nuts, seeds and berries is another quick, easy and tasty idea.

    4. Overnight oats

    - Soak some oats in rice, oat or almond milk overnight – soaking helps your body to digest them. In the morning top them with berries, nuts, seeds, nut butter, or maybe even a scoop of raw chocolate protein or cacao if you fancy a chocolate hit.

    5. Poached eggs with spinach and avocado

    - Very quick, simple and completely delicious. Simple poach a couple of eggs, steam the spinach, scoop out half an avocado, add it all to a plate and serve.

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  • Light and love

    I’m sure I wasn’t the only one this morning who, when I turned on the radio to hear the shocking news about the terrorist attack in Nice, felt shocked and sickened to my core. It makes me so sad when our beautiful world is twisted and distorted by the hatred and anger of a few, who destroy the lives of so many, and my heart goes out to the people who were caught up in this atrocity.

    Sadly, it is all too easy to start to see the world in a darkened light when we hear about events like this, especially when you add it to the recent upheaval in this country as a result of the referendum, the racist attacks which followed, the murder of Labour MP, Jo Cox, and the shootings and unrest in America.

    It seems therefore a poignant time to remind ourselves of the good that surrounds us, and to stay strong even when we feel we are surrounded by nothing but hatred and unrest. The world is a beautiful place filled with stunning scenery, amazing people and fantastic experiences, and we should try never to let the negative factions stop us from believing that.

    While we cannot stop others from behaving in a way that is so abhorrent to us, we can limit the terror and fear that they bring to our own lives. This is true in all facets of life, whether it is a terrible national atrocity, a bullying boss, an abusive neighbour or anything else that makes us feel uneasy or scared. We have the strength and power within ourselves to stop those things from overwhelming us. We have the ability to focus on the good in our lives and to reduce the impact that these negative influences have.

    Spend time tonight with your loved ones, ring a friend you haven’t seen in a while, take a walk in the countryside or on the beach, or go out dancing until dawn. Do whatever it takes to remind you that despite the odd moments of dark, you are still surrounded by love and light.

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  • A quick home workout

    Fancy a super quick workout that you can do in the time it takes to watch an episode of Eastenders?

    Exercising doesn’t need to take hours to be effective, neither does it need to involve expensive equipment or a gym membership. This 20minute workout uses only bodyweight exercises, and can be done in the privacy and comfort of your own home, or in the park or on the beach (depending on where you live of course!)

    Set a timer (download one on your phone for free) for 30 second work intervals and 30 second rest intervals. If you are already quite fit and fancy more of a challenge then set it for 45 seconds/30 seconds or even one minute work/30 seconds rest. We are looking for twenty rounds in total, but depending on your fitness you may want to take a slightly longer break – up to two minutes - halfway through, thereby breaking the session into two ten minute blocks.

    So, the plan is that there are ten exercises, and you are going to work your way through them, working on each for 30 seconds and resting for 30 seconds before moving onto the next one.

    Your exercises are (if you’re not sure on any of them, google will be able to tell you more!):

    1. Squats

    • Keep your feet hip width and flat on the floor. The aim is to sit back and down and get your bottom as low as you can without compromising form, so make sure your back isn’t rounding and your knees are not going over your toes at the front.

    2. Press ups

    • The traditional press up. Aim for as many full press ups as you can to give the core a good workout. An easier option is to do them from your knees.

    3. Forward lunges

    • Take a big step forward with one leg at a time, then lower your back knee down towards the ground, before straightening that leg again and stepping it back in. Repeat on the other side.

    4. Cross Body Climbers

    • Lie down on the floor, face down. Then lift yourself up so that you are resting only on your feet and hands, with your arms fully extended. Lift one leg at a time, bending the knee and bringing it through, underneath the body, towards the opposite elbow. Swap legs and repeat.

    5. Sumo squats

    • As for exercise number one, except this time you are going to take your feet into a wider stance, with your toes pointing slightly outwards. This is a great one for the inner thighs.

    6. Burpees

    • Everyone’s favourite ‘love to hate it’ exercise. Stand up straight, bend over and place your hands on the floor, jump your feet back so that your body is in a straight line/plank position, jump them back in, and jump back up to standing. You can do the movements by stepping rather than jumping if you want to lower the intensity.

    7. Reverse lunges

    • As for exercise number three, but this time you will step your legs back, one at a time, again bending your back knee towards the ground.

    8. Bodyweight rows

    • Adopt the same body position as for cross body climbers, but this time your feet stay on the ground, and you lift one arm at time, bending the elbow so that the upper arm stays parallel with the body.

    9. Star jumps

    • Or jumping jacks – an old school aerobic favourite. Arms by your side and feet together, you jump your feet out to the side, lifting your arms at the same time, and then jump your feet back together, letting your arms fall back to your sides.

    10. Plank

    • Resting on your toes and your forearms only, your body should be in a straight line. Engage your core, but don’t hold your breath!

    Work as hard as you can on each exercise during your work intervals, and then enjoy your 30 seconds of rest between each interval.

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