FAQs – session 1

I’m opening up my brain to you guys!
Do you have a burning question about food, diet or nutrition that you’ve always wanted to know the answer to?
No matter how random, get in touch via email, twitter or facebook and I’ll do my best to answer in my new series of FAQs.

Due to my hectic work schedule, I sometimes eat really late at night, is this bad?
Research shows that it’s not the time at which you eat the calories, but the total amount of calories consumed throughout the day that matters.

It’s not like by eating just before you go to bed you’ll immediately store those calories all as fat because…(prepare yourself! Shock…horror…!)…you still burn calories when you sleep! I know, it’s great! If you think about it, it makes total sense. You still need your heart, your lungs and even your brain to work when you’re sleeping, right? All of these processes require energy.

The one downside of eating just before going to bed might be that some people get an upset stomach from going into a horizontal position so soon after eating, but in terms of weight gain, the balance of what you eat through the day is much more important.

Are carbs fattening?
I have lost count of how many times I have been asked this question.

First of all, scientifically speaking, the term ‘carbs’ or ‘carbohydrates’ doesn’t just apply to starches, it applies to all ‘sugars’, so this includes the sugars found in dairy products, fruits, vegetables and chocolate. Fibre is also a type of carbohydrate. However, when people ask me this question, most of them are referring specifically to starchy carbs such as bread, pasta, potatoes and rice.

Starchy carbs are an important source of energy, vitamins, minerals and fibre – (fibre is important in disease prevention and some types have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, see my post on fibre for more details).Per gram, ‘carbs’ contain the same number of calories as protein, so no, they on their own are not fattening. Carbs have got their bad reputation because people often eat much more than they need, and because we tend to add fats to them. A large number of processed products are also carbohydrate based, and these often have fats added to them to enhance their flavour. Rice, pasta, potatoes, bread or cereals in sensible portions are healthy foods to include in your diet (select brown/wholewheat options to up your fibre intake).

I’ve heard that I shouldn’t eat fruit after a meal, is this true?
The short answer here is…..NO!

People have asked me this stating that they have read that eating fruit straight after a meal interferes with the digestion of food eaten.  Well I’m not quite sure where this comes from, but the truth is fruit may actually HELP with the absorption of some nutrients after a meal. As mentioned in my vitamin C post, fruits containing vitamin C may help absorb iron from foods, especially non-meat sources. Rich in nutrients, fruit is a completely healthy thing to have as a dessert, it’s lower in calories than apple pie and custard, and if it helps curb your sweet tooth, it’s definitely a better option than a handful of biscuits!

Remember though that it’s everything in moderation, fruit (like any other food) contains calories and too much of a good thing can be not such a good thing! See my post on portion sizes for more info.

Do I need to go gluten free to lose weight?
No. Unfortunately, the media has a big impact on what diet is perceived as ‘healthy’. Gluten free does not automatically mean less calories, sometimes it can even mean more…as well as more added sugar…!

Some people have a true intolerance to gluten and have to cut it out from their diet. Given that gluten free produce is (generally) more expensive, harder to get hold of, there is less choice available, I tend to advise people not to go gluten free unless they need to. That said, of course, health is about the bigger picture, so yes, it is possible to lose weight and be healthier by going gluten free, but do you need to do it? Certainly not.

How many eggs should I have in a week?
People are often concerned about the egg and cholesterol debate. Eggs are a great source of nutrients, quick to cook and easy to make a meal from. Egg yolks do contain cholesterol, in fact 1 egg contains around 55% of your daily recommended amount. However, it is not as simple as eating more cholesterol = higher cholesterol levels*. It has been found that saturated fats (fats that are solid at room temperature, mostly from animal sources) have a bigger impact on your total cholesterol level than cholesterol contained in foods.

There is currently no recommendation in place regarding a maximum number of eggs per week, but bear in mind that we should try and eat a variety of foods – so don’t rely on eggs as your sole source of protein.

*For people with familial hypercholesterolemia (a hereditary condition causing high-cholesterol), there is a recommended limit on eggs and other foods that contain cholesterol. For more information, download this comprehensive leaflet from the British Heart Foundation.

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Overnight Oats

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Rushed in the morning; no time to make breakfast?
Want something quick, convenient and tasty that will keep you going till lunch?
Enjoy porridge in the winter but not so keen on hot breakfasts through the summer?

It’s your lucky day!

This recipe can be prepared the night before, saving you loads of time in the morning! It’s healthy, tasty and can be varied by adding different toppings so you don’t get bored.

INGREDIENTS
Porridge oats (40g) (use gluten free oats if necessary)
Milk (120-150ml) (The nutritional values below are for semi-skimmed cow’s milk, but you could also use soy, almond or any other milk!)

METHOD
1. Put the oats into a bowl (or a sealable jar if you have one!)
2. Pour over the milk.
3. Cover with cling film or close the lid, and leave the oats in your fridge overnight.
4. The following morning, choose the toppings of your choice and enjoy. (You can also pop the bowl in the microwave for a minute if you prefer it warm.)

NUTRITIONAL INFO:
Calories
: 220kcal
Carbs: 33g
Protein: 11g
Fat: 5g
Saturated fats: 2g

20140730_083037 (2)Topping ideas:
– Banana (or just about any other fruit!)
– Frozen berries
– Chopped apricots
– Yoghurt
– Chopped nuts
– Seeds
– Honey
– Peanut butter

Banana Ice Cream

20150528_114415It’s that time of year again where ice cream is everywhere. There’s nothing better than enjoying a cooling ice cream after a long day in a hot office, and now you can do it without the calories and the added sugars!

This recipe is SUPER SIMPLE! It has just one essential ingredient.

I’ve known about this idea for a while, but never tried it. I tried it last week and now I’ll permanently have bananas in my freezer, and when you taste this you’ll find out why! It actually tastes like creamy, ice cream. Suitable for just about anybody; those watching their weight, those with lactose intolerance, vegans, children, even babies! Plus you can vary it and make it “more gourmet” by adding in different things.

Healthy, cheap, tasty and sooo easy to make!

You’ll need a banana and a food processor.

(This recipe works best with ripe, sweet and soft bananas…the ones that are starting to go a little black in your fruit bowl!)

METHOD
1. Peel the banana, slice into coins and freeze in an airtight container or freezer bag (a couple of hours should be enough but overnight is best).
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2. Pop the banana slices into a food processor and blend.

 

20150528_1140133. First, they’ll appear crumb-like (see picture >>). Use a soft spatula to scrape the bits off that are stuck to the sides and keep going!

4. Once your bananas are becoming smoother, you can add in other ingredients if you want (see below for ideas).

5. Keep blending until your bananas (and extras) resemble a smooth, creamy texture…like ice cream!

6. You can enjoy it immediately, or you can put it into an airtight container and put it back in the freezer until it becomes more solid.

Additional flavourings (some not suitable for babies <12 months age):
– Walnuts (or other nuts)
– Peanut butter
– Frozen berries
– Honey
– Chocolate chips
– Nutella
– Crumbed biscuits (speculoos or ginger nuts!)
– 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon or ginger

Do let me know what you think and if you try adding in different things!

Chickpea & raisin cookies

Here’s another chickpea recipe for you to try out! If you missed my chickpea chocolate brownie recipe, click here to take a look.

I’m having lots of fun trying out chickpea recipes! These cookies are nutty, sweet and more filling than your standard cookie. They’re also flour-less so suitable for those intolerant to gluten. When they’ve cooled they’re more of a cake texture than crunchy, but still, the perfect accompaniment to your afternoon cup of tea. Crunch from the nuts and sweet raisins, plus the protein will make you feel fuller so one will hit the spot!

20150329_165331Ingredients:
240g chickpeas
40g powdered almonds
100g raisins
80g chopped almonds
1 egg
80g sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 220’c and line a flat baking tray with greaseproof paper.
2. Add all of the ingredients except the raisins and chopped almonds to a food processor and blend for a couple of minutes, until you have a smooth mixture.
3. Add the almonds and raisins to the mixture and ‘pulse’ the food processor a couple of times to mix them in.
4. Dollop a small ball of the dough onto the greaseproof paper and press flat into a cookie shape. Repeat until you have used up all the mixture (I made 18 from the above ingredients).
5. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the edges are starting to get crispy. Let cool and enjoy 🙂

Store in an airtight container!20150329_165525

The nutritional information below is per cookie:
CALORIES: 100kcal
TOTAL FAT: 4.4g
SATURATED FAT: 0.3g
PROTEIN: 3.2g

Chickpea Brownies

20150329_180015These gooey, delicious mouthfuls of chocolate indulgence are the perfect bake for the Easter holidays! Chuck all the ingredients into a food processor, throw in the oven and…voila!!

Honestly…don’t let the chickpeas put you off. They taste fantastic! Plus, they’re suitable for those with coeliac disease as they are gluten free!

The fact that they contain more protein than your standard chocolate brownie should help with satiety and prevent you going back for more! The perfect sweet treat for a little bit of what you fancy!

Ingredients:
300g chickpeas
2 eggs
40g cocoa powder
80g sugar*
1 tsp coconut oil (melted)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
20mls espresso coffee (optional)**
100g dark chocolate chips

*You can replace with sweetener if desired
**Another suggestion from a blog reader is to include marmalade in the mixture to give it an orangey taste…yum!

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180’c and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
2.  I used a bar of dark chocolate (at least 70%) and put it through the food processor to make chocolate chips. It’s a good idea to leave some bigger chunks as this adds to the gooey texture of the brownies. Tip this into a bowl for the moment.
3. Place the chickpeas, coconut oil, coffee and eggs into the food processor. Blend for a minute or so.
4. Mix together the dry ingredients (cocoa, sugar, baking powder and salt). Add this to the chickpea mixture in the food processor and continue to blend….well!
5. Once you have a smooth mixture, stir in your chocolate chips.
6. Now pour the mixture into the lined tray. You’ll need to flatten it a little as the bake won’t change shape much, so ensure it looks how you want it to.
7. Place in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, until the top is firm to the touch and the surface has begun to crack. A toothpick should also come out (relatively) clean.
8. Let the bake cool completely before cutting into 12 pieces. Dust with icing sugar, and serve 🙂

The nutritional information below is per brownie:20150329_175956
CALORIES: 134kcal
TOTAL FAT: 4.8g
SATURATED FAT: 2.5g
PROTEIN: 4.25g

I love receiving pictures of you making my recipes:

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rachel brownies

Mediterranean Hotpot

I’m a big fan of Mediterranean food because it’s healthy, tasty, comforting and, typically, easy to make. You can pretty much throw in any veg and it goes well together. When it comes to dishes like this, I tend to just use up what veg we have left. Consequently,this recipe probably isn’t one for those who like precise, follow-to-the-letter recipes. However, it’s quick, sooo easy and packed with vegetables, fibre and protein.

Serves 4

20150303_184130Ingredients

Chicken (I used 2 breasts, diced into bitesized chunks)
2 large onions
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tin of chickpeas, drained
1 aubergine
1 courgette
Mushrooms (a couple of handfuls)
1 pepper
1 chili
2 cloves of garlic
Cherry tomatoes (a couple of handfuls)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
Water
1 tbsp basil
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp turmeric
Salt & pepper to taste

Method

1. Add the oil to a large pan and heat on low.
2. Dice the onions, finely chop the garlic and add to the pan. Leave to soften for a few minutes.
3. Add the bitesize chicken chunks to the pan and leave for 5-10 minutes to cook. Meanwhile, chop all your remaining vegetables.
4. Put the vegetables (aubergine, mushrooms, pepper, courgette and tomatoes) into the same pan, along with the chili, herbs and spices. Season if desired.
5. Add the tinned tomatoes and water (I add a further tin full of water). Stir well and leave for 5-10 minutes with the lid on.
6. When the vegetables have begun to cook and the contents of the pan has reduced a little, add the chickpeas. Stir again, and leave for 10-15 minutes with the lid on, stirring periodically.
7. Check the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is piping hot. Your hotpot is ready!

HINT 1: If you want, you can use this dish as a ‘sauce’ for pasta (as pictured above)
HINT 2: A little crumbled feta tastes great on this dish!

The nutritional data below is based on the above ingredients yielding 4 portions (not including pasta):
CALORIES: 300kcal
TOTAL FAT: 9g
SATURATED FAT: 1.2g
PROTEIN: 19g

Roasted Chickpeas

I’ve been making these for a while, but not got round to posting a recipe. These are great for those people who like to nibble, they have the crunch of crisps, but less saturated fat. Chickpeas are also a great source of protein and soluble fibre, which helps keep you fuller for longer.
They’re super easy to make and you can change the flavour so you don’t get bored. They are slightly addictive though, and (unless you’re okay putting up with the repercussions of bean-overload)…I’d recommend only having a handful at a time!

Ingredients:roasted chickpeas
1 tin of chickpeas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon paprika
Salt & pepper to season

  • Alternatives:
    – S
    wap the paprika for pretty much any spice you like (curry, chili powder, you could even try mustard!)
    – Swap the olive oil for coconut oil and have with cinnamon and honey for a sweeter alternative (omit the pepper).

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 200’c.
2. Drain the chickpeas and rinse under cold water.
3. Tip the chickpeas onto some kitchen roll and rub dry. This will remove some of the husks (that’s okay!)
4. Add the chickpeas into a bowl along with the oil and your choice of spices. Season as desired and mix well, ensuring every chickpea is coated.
5. Place onto a baking tray and into the oven.
6. Roast for about 30-40 minutes until the chickpeas are crispy. The longer you leave them, the crispier they’ll get – just don’t let them burn!
7. Allow to cool, and serve. Store in an airtight container and they keep well.

The nutritional information below is per 45g portion:
CALORIES: 90kcal
TOTAL FAT: 3.5g
SATURATED FAT: 0.5g
PROTEIN: 4g