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10 top tips to a happier life!

Happy Monday everyone! I’d like to share something with you today that was given to me by one of my yoga teachers. I know that it will probably sound a little cheesy but admit it, we all like a little bit of cheese once in a while! I can almost guarantee that if you are feeling a little gloomy cos its monday take one read of this and somewhere deep inside you won’t be able to help but have a little smile!

‘Puppy Frankie’s Rules for a Happy Life’

  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them
  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk
  • Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure Ecstasy
  • Run, romp and play daily
  • Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride
  • On warm days, take the time to stop to lie on your back on the grass
  • When happy, dance around and wag your entire body
  • Trust and be loyal
  • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently
  • If what you want lies buried, dig and dig and dig until you find it
  • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do!

Many thanks Rick at Dharma Shala and also to my gorgeous dog Biscuit who allowed me to use this photo of her for my blog article!

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Laura’s Blissful Frittata Bites

Don’t you just love Saturday mornings?! I was lucky enough to enjoy the ultimate Saturday morning last weekend… It was pure bliss!

It began with a nice early night on Friday and then up bright and early at 6am training  – with the hubby and the dog in tow. The sky was just stunning at that time of day and we were lucky enough to view yet another stunning sunrise over Bondi. After training, a fantastic yoga session at Dharma Shala in Bondi and then finally a relaxing brunch with the girls.

My friend Laura was hosting the brunch and she lay on a really fantastic feast including the recipe for Frittata bites below. They honestly tasted amazing and would make an awesome grab and go protein rich breakfast throughout the week if you whipped up a batch and stored them in the fridge. So here they are, Laura’s blissful Saturday Frittata bites… I hope you enjoy them as much as we all did!

Laura’s Blissful Frittata Bites

Ingredients

(Makes 12 large “cups”)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups baby spinach leaves, chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ bell pepper, finely diced (I used orange)
  •  ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 8 whole eggs
  • ½ cup egg whites
  • 100g Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 50g sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  •  grating fresh nutmeg

 Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and coat a 12- large cup muffin pan with cooking spray or brush lightly with olive oil.
  2. Drizzle large skillet with olive oil, and heat over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add salt, pepper, garlic and bell pepper and continue cooking for about a minute, until fragrant.
  3. Throw in spinach leaves and toss gently until completely wilted, about one minute. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, add whole eggs, egg whites, fresh thyme and nutmeg. Beat the eggs until fully incorporated and slightly frothy. Add spinach mixture; sun dried tomatoes and Feta cheese.
  5. Spoon into prepared muffin tin. Do not fill the cups more than ¾ of the way to avoid spillage.
  6. Cook for 22-25 minutes, until eggs are set and top starts to colour.
  7. Allow to cool on a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes before removing frittata from cups.
  8. Can be served immediately, but is equally good served cold, with a nice green salad.

Recipe taken from: http://thehealthyfoodie.com/2012/03/26/spinach-feta-frittata-bites/

Photo; http://www.flickr.com/photos/bohomisfit/4832425946/sizes/z/in/photostream/

The High and Low GI’s of Fruit…

 There is no denying that fruit contains a lot of the good stuff!! It’s packed full of a whole bunch of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre plus it tastes really great too! 

However, at the same time some fruits do also contain a lot of sugar and can therefore cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels much like any other sweet treat. And what goes up has to crash back down again! This spike and crash can leave you with some nasty symptoms such as headaches, sluggishness, hunger pangs, energy slumps, irritability weight gain etc.

So how can these sugar spikes with seamingly healthy fruits be avoided?

The GI of a food measures the effects it has on the blood sugar levels. It estimates how much each gram of available carbohydrate in a food raises a person’s blood glucose levels once the food has been consumed.  This is worked out relative to the consumption of glucose, which is 100.

In order to avoid the nasty symptoms associated with excess sugars you need to try to make   low GI food choices, foods that are ideally under 50 on the glycemic index, Anything above 70 is considered high GI.

Most whole fruits are classed as low to medium GI as long as they are in their whole, original form. However fruit juices, smoothies and fruit flavoured products are not  low gi and are usually packed with added sugars which sends them up the GI scale. Even pure fruit juices are higher GI due to the fibre that is removed when the fruit is juiced.

Not all whole fruits are the same though, for example tropical fruits tend to have a much higher GI than you might expect, in fact you may be surprised to know that Watermelon has a GI of 72 which is higher than many fruit based foods with added sugar!

Here is my guide on the Higher and Lower GI’s of fruits and which ones are best if you are looking to keep your blood sugar levels and weight in check:

VERY Low GI – The best choices

Cherries (22) ,  Grapefruit (25)

Low GI – Great choices

Raspberries (less than 40), Apples (38), Oranges (45), Pears (38), Strawberries (40)

Medium to High GI

Banana (54), Kiwi (53), Pineapple (66)

High GI – Over 70

Watermelon (72), also dates and raisons

Finally, try to add protein such as natural yogurt to your low GI fruit. This can further prevent the sugar surges, helps you to preserve muscle mass, helps you to burn fat and will really minimise those hunger pangs!

Abs of Steel! Check out this hard core workout…

Engage your core, belly button towards your spine, zip up your core… you many have heard people mention these phrases on numerous occasions but what do they actually mean and what’s the big deal?!

Here’s my quick and very topline 101 on core and why it’s so important

What is your core?

Your core muscles are made up of several different muscles in your abdominals and back.  These include the pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis, the internal and external obliques, the rectus abdominus, the erector spinae, (sacrospinalis), the longissimus thoracis and the diaphragm.  

Minor core muscles include the latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus and trapezius. 

In a simple form think of your core muscles as a highly supportive band or belt that runs around your trunk keeping everything in alignment.

Why is it so important to have a strong core?

Your body is highly reliant on the core muscles for functional movements and maintaining a good posture. If you look at people who slouch or slump they are unlikely to have strong core muscles.  

A strong core helps to prevent back pain which is often a sign of weak abdominal muscles and for you sporty people good core strength can dramatically improve sports performance or help you to lift heavier loads.

What is the Transverse Abdominus (TA)?

This hugely important muscle is the deepest of all the abdominal  muscles and is thought to be a significant component of the core. It provides thoracic and pelvic stability… and without a stable spine that is aided by this TA muscle functional movements can not be performed properly.

Therefore it is extremely important to activate and use your TA when carrying out any form of exercise from weight training to running to cycling.  It will help you to exercise safely and maintain a correct posture.

I always say to my clients that they should think of their TA  as being at the heart of them, their engine. In other words once they have activated this deep muscle they should then try to use it to give them power and strength.

How do I find my TA muscle?

The TA is notoriously a tricky to locate and recruit but once you have found it and practised using it  you will find that it works a bit like a light switch flicking on and off when needed.

To help activate this muscle imagine you are trying to zip up a pair of really tight jeans! You can improve the contraction further by also working the muscles deep within your pelvis, the ones that keep you from urinating.

How do I train my core muscles?

Here is a program of my top 6 core strengthening exercises. You don’t need any equipment, just an exercise mat, grassy area or a carpeted floor at home.

Work through the program from exercise 1 – 6 and then repeat 2/3 times.

Don’t be deceived, it’s harder than you think!

* For beginners I suggest  just doing the stage 1 of each exercise (for the ones that have stages)

EXERCISE 1…Plank with Leg Raise

  1. 60 seconds in plank position
  2. Then opposite leg raises counting to 10 before swapping legs – repeat 6 times
  Make sure you keep your core muscles engaged for the duration of this exercise (in other words contract your TA and draw your navel in towards your spine). Push back with the heels and activate your thigh muscles pulling up from the knee caps. Tuck your tail bone under and keep breathing. When you lift the leg make sure you really activate the butt and flex the foot
EXERCISE 2…Plank with Leg Raise

  1. Side plank hold for 60 secondsResume starting position
  2. Back into the side plank position again and left let 12 times on each side 
  Make sure you keep your core muscles engaged for the duration of this exercise. Come up onto the elbow making sure there is a right angle at the elbow. Squeeze the bum and pull the hips up using the oblique muscles down the side of the body. Keep the chest up and open and keep breathing.When raise the leg make sure you activate the butt muscles and keep breathing 
EXERCISE 3…Wide leg abdominal crunches

  1. Do 15 crunches with legs together
  2. Open legs wide and repeat with another 15 crunches
  Make sure you keep your core muscles engaged for the duration of this exercise. Bring the shoulders are completely off the ground for the entire exercise as crunch the trunk up and down very slowly. Keep the back of the neck long at all times, tucking the chin slightly.
EXERCISE 4…Prone Ab Crunch

  1. Complete 12 reps of entire exercise on one side and then repeat with the other leg
  Start the exercise in a high plank position. Make sure the tail bone is tucked under and the core muscles are engaged. Push back with your heels and activate your thigh muscles pulling up from the knee caps. Keeping core activated lift the left leg up slowly behind you. Then bring the same knee forwards towards the chest – as far forward as possible. Next slowly lift the leg up again squeezing the butt and then finally bring the knee across the body to the opposite shoulder. Repeat these 3 moves for the desired number of reps and then swap sides.
EXERCISE 5…Bicycle Crunches

  1. Do 20 reps alternating side 
  Make sure you keep your core muscles engaged for the duration of this exercise. Keep the shoulders completely off the ground as you crunch to the side and make sure the move is nice and slow.
EXERCISE 6…Sleeping Crab

  1. 15 reps of the entire move
    Begin the exercise lying on your back. Activate your core muscles as you crunch up into a sitting position with your arms behind you. Next lift your butt off the ground so your weight is in the arms and legs. Lift one leg up making sure you kick nice and high whilst breathing out, then kick up with opposite leg. Do 2 kicks each side and then resume the starting position and repeat for desired number of reps.

I LOVE this!

As a trainer I am constantly asked what the ideal diet formula is for maintaining a healthy weight and keeping energy levels at their peak. There is so much information out there and so many different opinions that it is really difficult to know what to believe.

Through my own study, experiences and discussions with various health professionals about this over the years (from dieticians to acupuncturists, from naturopaths to doctors) I have found that we all seem to agree with a very similar and very simple philosophy… Sugar is the baddy!! 

A well balanced diet including lots of protein, vegetables, good fats and small amounts of low GI carbohydrates it she sure fire way to providing your body with all the healthy nutrients it needs, in addition to being kind to the waist line!

By following this simple formula I have seen amazing results with a long list of clients – coupled with at least 2 litres of water per day and regular exercise of course!

This way of eating has numerous health benefits including;  helping to you to stay fuller for longer after meals, helping to stabilise your blood sugar levels,  keeping your energy levels firing, stoping sugar cravings  and minimising excess glucose levels which store in the body as fat.

All the recipes that I include on this site follow this simple formula, they are high in protein and low GI. NOTHING will ever include sugar or white refined carbohydrates and all recipes will endeavour to have positive effects on the body.

High Protein, Low GI, Sugarless, Gluten Free Banana Bread

I came across this recipe last weekend and despite having a house full of packing boxes (we are moving house next weekend) and virtually no cooking appliances left unpacked, I just had to make it straight away… AND IT WAS SO WORTH IT!!!

We had our last slice for breakfast this morning toasted and spread with some ricotta cheese for extra protein and we both left for work grinning, it is just sooooo tasty!

I am not going to bore you with much of my garble today but will just let the recipe speak for itself! Here is the recipe for a high protein, low GI, sugarless, gluten free, grain free Banana bread.

High Protein, Low GI Banana Bread

300g smashed banana

3 free range eggs

Agave Syrup* (I used around 1 tablespoon but it depends how sweet you like it)

1 teaspoon of vanilla

60g olive oil

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda (bicarb soda)

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

2 cups of almond meal (ground almonds)

1/4 cup of flaxseed meal (ground flaxseed)

How to make it

Preheat the oven to 160 C.

Combine the smashed banana, agave, vanilla, eggs, cinnamon, bicarb, lemon juice and oil in a bowl making it as close to a smoothie consistency as possible. Add the almond and flax meal and combine.

Pour into a lightly oiled loaf tin (you could also sprinkle some almond meal into the tin on top of the oil to help prevent it sticking) and bake in the oven for 45 mins to 1 hour. You will know it is ready if you insert a skewer into the middle and it comes out dry. If it browns too quickly place some tin foil over it whilst it’s cooking.

Wait for it to cool before turning out of the tin. Serve either cool or toasted with a little ricotta cheese and sprinkling of seeds.

Makes 1 loaf with approx 12 slices:

1 slice:

Protein: 6.1 g
Carbs: 10g
Total Fat: 15 g
Saturated: 1.7 g
Kilojoules: 828
Calories: 193

Source: Recipe taken from http://www.thehealthychef.com/2011/10/gluten-free-banana-bread/

Workout 1 – See the Light!

This is my gym..the great outdoors! It’s free, no gym membership, no waiting for equipment,  no room full of sweaty people and no floor length mirrors that show every lump and bump! It’s fresh, it’s real, it’s in touch with nature!

Ok, for all you cynical people I appreciate that the weather isn’t always on our side and in winter the only window of opportunity may be in the pitch black but I guarantee you if you can work around it and take the plunge you will feel wonderful afterwards!

Here is the first in a serious of great outdoor workouts that I will be posting over the coming weeks and months!  For these workouts you will need no equipment, other than yourself and a park bench, a high step or a wall that’s around chair height. They are very high intensity workouts meaning that they are quick to do and yet great for calorie burn!

For the first one I am starting with quite simple moves (which will get progressively harder in subsequent workouts) but don’t be fooled, it isn’t as easy as it looks! Especially if you really put your all into it!

Don’t forget to have a bottle of water with you and do some good warm up stretches before you begin.  Also make sure that you leave plenty of time at the end to finish with some static stretches. In case you are interested, I will be posting a stretching program in the next few weeks…

Core Exercises:  Complete ONE set of a) followed by 1 set of b) then repeat for the second set
1a) Plank – 2 sets 30-60 seconds   Make sure you keep your core muscles engaged for the duration of this exercise – in other words contract your pelvic floor and draw your navel in towards your spine. Push back with the heels and activate your thigh muscles pulling up from the knee caps. Tuck your tail bone under and keep breathing.
1b) Side Plank – 2 sets 30-60 seconds    Make sure you keep your core muscles engaged. Come up onto the elbow making sure there is a right angle at the elbow. Squeeze the bum and pull the hips up. Keep the chest up and open and keep breathing. Make sure you don’t allow all your weight to fall into your shoulder, try to distribute it evenly through the body.
2a) Crunches with raised legs – 2 sets 20 reps   Make sure you keep your core muscles engaged for the duration of this exercise. Make sure the shoulders are completely off the ground for the entire exercise as you flex the trunk up and down slowly.
2b) Bicycle crunches – 2 sets 20 reps – SLOW! Hold each rep for 3 seconds   Make sure you keep your core muscles engaged for the duration of this exercise. Make sure the shoulders are completely off the ground, bringing the elbow as close to the knee as you can. 
CIRCUIT : 45 – 60 secs for each exercise (depending on fitness level)
Complete each of the exercises below in turn and then move on to the next one with very little rest.  When you get to the end, have a short rest and then repeat the circuit 2 more times.
Side Step Ups – Do one leg for 45-60 seconds and then swap sides   FAST FAST FAST!!!! Keep your core muscles engaged (navel in towards the spine). Make sure that the heel that’s on the bench remains in contact with the bench at all times and push up through the heel and the bum. Do not let the foot on the bench leave the bench! Breathe out as you step up. Don’t let yourself bend forwards when you get tired.
Kick Ups – FAST!    Alternate legs making sure you kick nice and high! Keep your core muscles engaged at all times. Breathe out as you kick up. 
1-Leg Press Ups    Keep core muscles engaged at all times. Breathe in as you go down and out as push up contracting the chest muscles. Start with 1 leg if you can and then drop to 2 legs when it becomes too difficult. Or you can start with 2 legs or even on your knees depending on your level. 
Lunge to Balance    Keep core muscles engaged. Breathe in on the way down and out on the way up. Make sure you keep your back straight and don’t let your knee go over the end of your toe when you are in the down position. Push off from the heel as you stand up. 
Triceps Dips   Feel free to have your knees bent if too difficult with straight legs…Keep your back straight at all times and chest out. Make sure your core muscles are engaged. Breathe in as you go down and out as you come up. 
Mountain Climbers – Fast!   Keep your core muscles engaged and make sure you keep breathing! Make sure your shoulders remain above your wrists. Keep switching legs as fast as you can for the allotted time. GREAT WORKOUT!!! WELL DONE!!!

‘Ava Choccie!

 So this weeks post is a seemingly naughty treat that actually isn’t naughty at all! Here is a recipe for a healthy, low GI chocolate mousse cake. It contains no sugar, no cream and no butter and yet it has a wonderful rich, smooth and creamy consistency just like your regular chocolate mousse. Plus the added bonus is that you don’t feel sick or guilty afterwards!

The main ingredient for this recipe is actually avocado, which may sound crazy but honestly it tastes AMAZING. Just so you know about 75% of an avocado’s calories come from fat but most of this is the heart healthy monounsaturated fat, so it is actually very good for you. The base is purely made up of nuts meaning that this cake is packed full of protein too.

I have to admit that my hubby Rob has to take full credit for this recipe, so if you love it as much as we do then this ones on him!

‘Ava Choccie Mousse Cake

Ingredients:

For the base:

150g Pecans

150g Almonds

1 tsp, Pink Himalayan Salt (pinch of salt if you don’t have!)

3 tbsp of almond butter 

For the filling: 

Blend the flesh of 4 medium, ripe avocados

150g Virgin coconut oil

Beans of 2 whole vanilla pods

200g raw cacao powder

Pinch of salt

Sweeten with agave nectar to taste.

Method

For the base blend together the almonds and pecans in a food processor, add the almond butter and keep blending until it forms a thick paste. Spoon the mixture into mould or tuppaware and press down flat to form a base.  Cover with cling film and leave to harden in the freezer for about 1hr.

Blend all the ingredients for the filling together until smooth and then pour onto the base. Set in the freezer until it is firm enough to slice up. The recipe says for an hour but we ended up having to leave it overnight before it was firm enough.

Top with fresh berries or eat it as it is. Whatever takes your fancy!

 

This recipe was adapted from:

http://www.rivercottage.net/recipes/laura-coxeters-raw-chocolate-ganache-tart/

Quinoa Porridge! Trust me, it’s good!

As you may have gathered by now I am a strong believer in high protein, low GI breakfasts for sustained energy and balanced blood sugar levels throughout the day.

This means that on the vast majority of mornings the hubby and will indulge in a piece of lean protein be it eggs, oily fish, lean meat or cottage cheese with a small serving of homemade low GI bread and an adequate supply of good fats in the form of our usual seeds. I don’t think a meal goes by without a good shaking of seeds!

There is however, the odd occasion where it is nice to treat ourselves to something a little bit different – something that is that is still packed full of protein and goodness though of course.

You may have heard me say this before but incase you haven’t I absolutely love Quinoa! We often have a small serving of this versatile little seed as a savoury accompaniment to dinner. So when I came across the concept for Quinoa porridge as a morning treat I was intrigued.

Why is quinoa so great? If you haven’t tried it yet it tastes great with a wonderfully nutty flavour. It is not only really delicious but it’s also one of the best sources of protein in the plant kingdom. It’s also low in fat and full of slow release carbohydrates which means it balances blood sugar levels. It also contains all eight essential amino acids making it a complete protein. 

I found a few recipes for Quinoa porridge online but this recipe is my kind of trial and error made up version. We think it is really tasty and it certainly had us feeling full for hours afterwards…

Quinoa Porridge

Ingredients

2 cups of Quinoa (pre soaked in hot water for 5 minutes, drained and rinsed again)

2 cups of milk

1 cup of water

1 pinch of salt

1 teaspoon of Cinnamon

Fresh vanilla pod or vanilla extract (not essence)

To serve:

1 handful of chopped walnuts

1-2 tablespoon of seeds

A few raspberries

Method

Add the milk,  water and salt to the pre treated Quinoa and bring to the boil in a saucepan. Bring the heat down to a simmer and add the cinnamon and vanilla. Simmer on a low heat for around 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally and checking that the mixture does run out of fluid.

You will know whethat the porridge is ready when it begins to soften and comes together having soaked up most of the liquid. (Please note it doesn’t have the same consistency to conventional porridge, the quinoa will still stay in its original shape and will have some bite).

Once it is done spoon into bowls and add the nuts, seeds and berries.

Serves 3 – This made enough for two portions hot and then one portion cold the next day. It is fabulous enjoyed cold mixed with natural yogurt!

Seriously Seedy Spelt bread in 10 mins!

Happy Monday all! This weekend has been a big cooking weekend so another recipe to start the week!

Before I start just wanted to let you know that have a couple of awesome workouts which I will be uploading over couple of  weeks. So watch this space!

Anyway, for today’s post I have the most delicious, quick and easy spelt soda bread recipe to share with you. It literally takes 10 minutes to prepare (if that!) and only 35 minutes to cook.  I was utterly shocked that making bread could be this easy! It tastes awesome and my version is 100% spelt and seeds, no white wheat flour whatsoever meaning that it wont send your blood sugar levels soaring.  

Incase you are not familiar with the Spelt grain it is an ancient variety of wheat that has a higher  protein content and also higher B vitamins, potassium and iron content than other types of wheat. Bread made with this flour plus the addition of seeds has a lower GI than most other types of bread. If you can’t find spelt you could always substitute for stone-ground wholemeal flour instead and if you can’t find the seeds I used below you can always experiement with different varieties.

Seriously Seeded Spelt Soda Bread

3 3/4 cup of Wholemeal Spelt Flour (you could subsitute for stone-ground wholemeal)

3 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds

3 tablespoons of sunflower seeds

3 tablespoons of chia seeds

3 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 teaspoons of baking soda

Optional: 2 tablespoons fennel seeds (if you do decide to use fennel seeds just a warning that it does flavour the bread quite strongly)

1 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cup of buttermilk

A bit of extra buttermilk

Method

Pre-heat your oven to 200 c. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt into a bowl and mix together. Add in most of the seeds (leave around 2 tablespoons). Make a well in the middle of the mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Stir the dough until it just comes together, if it is a little too dry then add a splash more buttermilk.  Tip the dough onto a lightly floured board and knead for about a minute or until the mixture comes together in loose ball. Don’t knead for too long.

Working quickly place the ball onto a lightly floured baking sheet and cut a deep cross in the top (around 2/3 of the way through). Brush with buttermilk and sprinkle with the remaining seeds.

Bake for around 35 minutes on the middle shelf, it the top doesn’t have enough colour then move up a shelf for the last 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Adapted from River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnley- Whittingsall, published by Bloomsbury

PS  To try and decrease the sodium content of this loaf I will probably try and cut down on the teaspoon of salt next time

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