I’ve been writing Fitness On Toast for a year now – it’s been huge fun, the response has surprised me enormously, and has taken me on some fabulous adventures! A big thank you to everyone who has supported the blog, for reading, for browsing aimlessly, for your lovely emails and heartening comments… I’d like to propose a toast to fitness; let’s make 2014 the healthiest year yet! Now I don’t want to sound like a spoil sport, and a bit of a tipple is called for around this time of year, but to help you along, I’m reposting this “Alcohol vs Fitness” article I wrote at the start of 2013, as it’s totally relevant for this evening :D! HAPPY NEW YEAR xx (more…)
Christmas is infamous for overeating indulgent sugary, fattening foods. This post is my attempt at a healthier alternative – it’s a tour-de-force of the same foods but with a bit of a lighter twist. Perhaps you can just pick and choose a few ideas from it, and as you can see from the picture above, ‘healthier’ needn’t look any less inviting and ‘Christmassy’ 🙂 ! Click MORE to see lovely pictures of the rest of my meal & get the ‘how to’ 🙂 Faya
OK, so it’s hardly festive-themed food, but in my calendar, we’re not quite there yet. In the meantime, I’m staying on the straight and narrow with this immensely nutritious ‘Grilled Salmon, Quinoa, Lentils Avocado and Almond’ dish. Weighing in at a reasonable 480 calories with just 20 minutes of low-intensity preparation time, it ticks so many healthy boxes and leaves me feeling totally contented… though obviously a Selfridges mini mince pie (my personal kryptonite) complements it beautifully for dessert 🙂 ! Read more here… (more…)
Where possible, I’ll always try to buy organic produce from my local grocer. Organic foods are said to have more nutritional value, they certainly have fewer pesticides (chemicals including fungicides, herbicides & insecticides), they’re likely fresher (as they have a shorter shelf life), they can more often be tastier, have fewer/no preservatives and are more environmentally friendly. In the case of eggs, they even look better, with a deep, rich hue of sunset orange in their yolk, rather than nuclear yellow of battery hens.
In terms of meat organically reared animals aren’t dosed up with antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed other animal byproducts. Plus the animals roam for far more time outdoors.
Leading the healthy lifestyle that Fitness On Toast is all about, means committing to healthier choices and sticking to them (the tricky part!). So if you’re introducing more greens, healthy fats and proteins into your diet it only makes sense to make sure you’re buying the best quality products to optimise your nutrition intake, and more importantly preserve your body’s healthy state.
After visiting one of my absolute favourite places in Stockholm – Rosendahl’s Royal Gardens, where they grow all their own foods I felt inspired to make a own healthy autumn salad recipe. MORE about the beautiful Rosendahl and recipe below. Faya 🙂
I normally like to post my own recipes, but this meal from a recent trip to France was in another league – I had to blog about it! As a pescatarian, I’ve had ALOT of fish in my time, but this was amongst the best I think I’ve ever had! Click MORE below to read about the nutritional benefits of white fish like sole, and see the pics of my gorgeous meal…
Here’s a quick, summery recipe that’s super-light, rich in taste, and requires practically no skill in the kitchen! I try to include one salad a day, which can get exceptionally tiresome, so it’s fun to mix up the ingredients a little, and to depart from the safety Niçoise. This yummy summer salad is refreshingly light, yet still filling, packed with nutritious contents, and is easy & quick to make! You’ll spend a maximum 20min to complete the whole thing including the c.15 minutes it takes to bake the salmon. Hope you like it! Click more to get the full nutritional benefits and ‘instructions’. Bon ap! Faya x
Many of my clients aren’t from the UK, and often ask me how to read the food labels here; it’s vitally important to understand the label in order to be in command of what you’re nourishing your body with. Even if you do understand it, far too few take the time to read and digest it – no pun intended! This post will set out some tips and tricks for staying on top of the label.
Questions I ask myself every time; is it high in fat? saturates? salt? carbs? sugar? Knowing the answers is essential to maintaining a balanced, healthy diet. The label should, at a minimum, list the information on energy – calories, protein, carbohydrate, fat and salt. Nutrition information is shown per 100 grams and sometimes per portion of the food. A good deal of supermarket products show a ‘traffic light colour coding’ system where red is a warning, and green is fine – but relying on these without further thought is lazy and won’t help awareness for the diet.
1) WHAT ARE THE GDA’s ???
Some product also list Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs). The GDAs are based on UK government-set figures and are recommendations that give approximate amounts of certain nutrients and calories required for a healthy diet. GDA’s don’t account for your size, age, lifestyle, activity levels etc, so take them with a pinch of salt (literally!).
– FAT: Adult GDA is c. 70g, of which ‘saturates’ should be 20g (see ‘Ingredients’ below for more on this). Beware if the product has >20% fat, and I tend to think that <5% is truely ‘low fat’.
– SUGARS: Adult GDA is c. 90g. Sugars are carbs, so look for the ‘Carbohydrates (of which sugars)’ part on the label. You might see it as sucrose, fructose, maltose, honey, corn syrup or starch – but ultimately it’s still sugar. Aim for complex sugars, which are slow release, and sustain your blood sugar levels at a more constant rate through the day. Think whole grains, whole wheat, seeds, nuts and pulses. Too much simple sugar risks diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
– SALT: Adult GDA is c. 6g (one teaspoon!). Also labelled as sodium, it regulates nerves and the overall fluid balance in the body, but too much over time increases blood pressure and can lead to heart disease and/or stroke, plus it can make you look and feel bloated as it retains water. To cut down on salt when cooking use herbs, spices, garlic, ginger, lemon zest or chili (will up your metabolism!) instead, to add flavour. Use low-salt stock. When buying tinned foods get them without the added salt or brine (e.g. tuna in spring water). Avoid microwaved ready meals, and if you must (for some inexplicable reason) get it with reduced salt. Keep an eye on sauces they’re are often high in sodium too.
– CALORIES: Adult GDA is 2000 Kcal (calories) a day, though that will clearly vary hugely depending on gender, activity, metabolic levels etc. It’s a measure of energy contained within the food, so if you consume too much food-energy, you’ll store the excess as fat. Basic, but sometimes people forget this. Equally, if you have too little, you’ll lack the nutrients required to function properly! It’s about balance and control, which is the whole point of this post!
2) INGREDIENTS ???
– When reading the ingredients manifest, the nearer the beginning an ingredient is listed, the higher the content, e.g. if honey is the second thing listed on your granola bar, then that bar certainly contains a lot of sugar.
– Avoid transfats, they are usually fish or vegetable oils that have been artificially hardened by hydrogenation, they increase bad LDL cholesterol 🙂 and reduce good HDL cholesterol 🙁 which can contribute to stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, and worse. You can usually find them in biscuits, cakes and pastries – so watch out for any oil that says ‘hydrogenated’ before it.
3) THE LAW ???
– All food products must legally be labelled and not be misleading – great in theory, but unfortunately it’s not like that in practise. You might fancy yourself for having an antioxidant boost when you drink a ‘blueberry milkshake’, but often it won’t contain blueberries – much like ‘cheese & onion crisps’ usually don’t contain onion.
– The word ‘light’ also has no legal definition, and simply means the product might be lighter than another product (which product that is we don’t know), whilst it might only refer to fat, alcohol, sugar or salt. Similarly, with ‘Low fat’, there’s no legal guideline around this, which makes it lazy and misleading to just ‘trust the claim’. Check it. Don’t let the food manufacturer insult your intelligence!
4) HOW TO COMPARE & CONTRAST !!!
– Deciding which product is healthier for you is very easy – don’t over-complicate it, and don’t be intimidated by the numbers.
– Whenever you look at two products, each will show a ‘Per 100g’ or ‘Per 100ml’ column – if you see that product A has 20g fat, that’s 20%. If you see that a similar product B has 10g fat, that’s 10%. If product A happens to weigh 200g, then you’re eating 40g fat out of your c. 70g GDA – that’s clearly way too much! Product B (also weighing 200g) would invariably be a better choice here at 20g fat. There are complexities around types of fat, amount of sugars (as discussed above) etc, but broadly, the process should be that simple.
I really hope this helps not only foreigners like myself, but also encourages more curiosity about what we’re putting in us (think ‘horse’ or ‘beef’). Worth checking the sell-by date too – the fresher the better!
1) IF YOU MUST… Clients often ask what the ‘healthiest’ alcoholic drink is… My view is that if you must drink, make it red wine as a glass or two a day has been shown to decrease the risk of stroke, heart attack and cancer (elevates good cholesterol, lowers the bad cholesterol, rich in polyphenol antioxidants for cell health). But the emphasis is on “one or two glasses, only”! If red wine isn’t your cup of tea (like me), a straight spirit (vodka, gin or scotch) is fine. Avoid mixing them with juice, tonic water, coke etc. as these mixers are bursting with simple sugars (which will be quickly metabolised into fat) and will only increase the calorie content of your night out!
2) CONSIDER THIS: 1 gram of fat = 9 calories, 1g of protein = 4 calories, 1g of carbs = 4 calories, 1g of alcohol = 7 calories. So Alcohol is nearly as calorific as fat but it only has ‘empty calories’ with no nutritional value, and will in fact speed up fat storage! For reference: a double Gin and Tonic = 175 calories (c. 10% of a girl’s daily calorie intake – alot for something that doesn’t fill you up!). Here are the scores…
– Single Gin and slimline tonic = 75 calories.
– Glass of Champagne = 91 calories
– Can of Stella Artois = 247 calories
– Shot of straight Vodka = 55 calories
– A glass of Baileys = 133 calories
3) ALCOHOL’S EFFECTS ON MY TRAINING ? It can stop you reaching your goals by dampening performance, recovery and focus. Although it’s absorbed quickly, it metabolises slowly and can still affect the system up to 48hrs after consumption. It decreases strength, dehydrates (damaging to kidneys), exhausts the body (impairs liver function, as it metabolises alcohol at the expense of glycogen), disturbs sleep (crucial for muscle recovery), slows down reaction time, disrupts the body’s balance and co-ordination, impedes cardio exercise (raises blood pressure so the heart works harder to pump blood through the body) etc.
A typical night out will likely involve 3+ drinks and perhaps some cheesy chips as well. That could amount to 1250-1500 calories in itself, (>60% of your daily calorie allowance, on top of what you’ve already had that day). No wonder next day you’ll feel bloated and tired, so perhaps try to avoid the hangover fry-up – you don’t need the calories!!!