Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Twelve Tips to Help You Eat Healthily On a Budget

I've heard far too many people say that a healthy lifestyle is too expensive to maintain. This couldn't be further from the truth – you can actually save a lot of money when you stop wasting it on processed foods and unessentials. If you're trying to eat healthier but having a hard time money-wise, here are twelve simple tips to help you out.

1. Steer clear of health food stores. It might sound counter-intuitive, but these stores tend to be expensive and sell things like pre-packaged vitamins instead of fresh produce. They're definitely not the most cost effective way to eat healthily if you're on a budget.

2. Plan your meals for the week, write them down on a piece of paper and stick it to your fridge. That's breakfasts, lunches and dinners for a whole 7 days. Then write a shopping list for only the items you will need that week - and stick to it.

3. Eat before you shop. If you go to the supermarket hungry, you'll be more likely to buy unhealthy foods (and lots of them).

4. Supermarkets tend to put their most expensive and branded items at eye level and cheaper alternatives such as the value range on the bottom shelf. There's usually no difference in quality. Tinned tomatoes are a prime example.

5. Stop eating out in restaurants and ordering takeaways. This is bad for your health and can cost a massive amount over the course of the year. Cook as many of your meals from scratch as possible.

6. The freezer is your friend! Make meals in bulk and freeze in separate containers, ready for that day when you get home from work late or are just too busy to cook. If there's a nutritious meal prepared and just waiting to be heated up, you'll be less likely to grab the phone and call the local pizza place.

7. Buy seasonal fruit and vegetables from the local market or farmers market as it's often cheaper than the supermarket.

8. Frozen veg will last longer than fresh and it will be sitting in your freezer ready for whenever you need it. It often has more nutrients than fresh because it's usually frozen within an hour of being picked, meaning it doesn't have time to deteriorate.

9. Don't throw anything away. Get creative with what you already have in the kitchen cupboards before you buy more. With any dinners you can't finish, put the leftovers in the fridge and eat them for lunch the next day.

10. Meat can be expensive so try to use just a little and bulk your meals out with plenty of vegetables or pulses such as beans or lentils.

11. Supermarkets often slash prices of perishable goods such as fruit, veg and bread at the end of the day, so it's worth visiting in the early evening to try and bag a bargain. Just make sure you use everything before the use-by date or store it in the freezer for future use.

12. Take a packed lunch to work every day instead of going out to eat. Keep healthy snacks such as nuts, seeds and dried fruit with you whenever you leave the house so you're not tempted to pay out for unhealthy snacks if you get peckish.

Do you have anything to add to this list? How do you eat healthily while keeping costs down? Let me know in the comments!
If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
Five Easy Ways to Get Fit in Your Lunch Break

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Sunday, 15 January 2017

Six Things that Could Be Sabotaging Your Healthy Eating Efforts

We're halfway through January already (what?) and it's around this time that most people who have vowed to eat healthier start to lose motivation and fall off the wagon. In fact, a whopping 82 per cent break their new year's resolutions within the first two weeks. But why do most of us give up after just a fortnight? I'm going to share six mistakes that I've noticed some people make on their journey to health and vitality. Are you guilty of any of these?

1. Focusing solely on weight loss.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: diets are not good for you. The way to be healthy is to change the way you eat for life and make healthier choices every day, not to cut your calorie intake drastically for a limited period of time. If something isn't sustainable for the long term, you shouldn't be doing it at all. If you diet then you'll just end up piling all the weight back on (and more) when you start eating normally again. If you are overweight, focus on making your body stronger and healthier by eating the right foods and exercising regularly, and weight loss will be a welcome side effect.

2. Giving up after one blowout.
Don't live with the mindset that gorging on that slice of cake has ruined your healthy eating plan so you might as well have that bar of chocolate and packet of cookies too. You're only human and one face-stuffing session isn't going to be the end of the world. Don't beat yourself up over it; instead, resolve to get back on track and continue eating healthily. The way to avoid a binge is not to think of any food as 'off limits' and occasionally allow yourself a small treat at a set time so you're not continually thinking about and craving junk. 

3. Failing to prepare.

Grabbing food on the go is never a good idea as it can be difficult to find healthy options when you're out and about. The best thing to do is learn how to meal prep (I've written a whole post about this which you can read here). Making five simple boxes of salad on a Sunday night will ensure you have a healthy lunch to take to work every day next week.

You should also plan your dinners for the week ahead. Write them down on a sheet of paper and stick it to your fridge. That way you'll be able to see what ingredients you need to buy so you won't be caught out when it comes to making them. You'll also have a plan to stick to so you're not tempted to order a takeaway after a long day at work.

4. Smoking and drinking.
This one should be a no-brainer. Your body works hard to keep you alive and does not deserve to be pumped full of all the tar, nicotine and deadly chemicals found in cigarettes. If you want to do one thing that will make you infinitely healthier, then giving up the cigs is just that.

Alcohol should also not be on your radar if you're health conscious. It provides empty calories and can lead to all kinds of health problems down the line, from disturbed sleep, to high blood pressure, to heart disease and even brain damage. 

5. Covering your food in fatty dressings. 
You might feel angelic for passing up the pizza and choosing a salad, but hold off on the ranch dressing, mayonnaise or whatever your topping of choice is. They're full of fat, calories and sugar which will pretty much negate the health benefits of your otherwise saintly plate. If you feel your veg is too dry without some kind of dressing, a squeeze of lemon juice is your best option. A small amount of extra virgin olive oil is also a great choice - yes, it's high-calorie, but most of these come from monounsaturated (good) fats which offer a range of health benefits.

6. Keeping unhealthy food in the house.
If it's there, you will eat it (I know I will). A lot of people manage to eat well all day long then binge in front of the TV in the evening. Knowing that all those goodies are sitting in the kitchen calling your name can be too much temptation to resist. Stock up on healthy snacks such as nuts, seeds, dried fruit, yoghurt and berries so they're readily available for when you feel peckish and won't undo all your hard work.

What are your bad habits? How do you deal with them so they don't mess up your healthy eating plan?

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
Six Unhealthy Breakfasts You Think Are Healthy

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Friday, 13 January 2017

Charity of the Month: January

Welcome to a new series for 2017 on Nic's Healthy Life: Charity of the Month. Every month throughout the year I will dedicate a blog post to a small charity I believe you should check out and think about supporting.

My Charity of the Month for January is The Lewis Foundation based in Northampton, England. Founded in May 2016 by Lorraine and Lee Lewis, it donates 80 gift bags per month to adult cancer patients undergoing treatment in Northampton General Hospital. There are 10 different packs the patients can choose from, ranging from reading to beauty to adult colouring books to radios. These packs are free of charge for all patients, whether they are day patients, overnight patients, short stay or long term patients. So far the charity has donated 640 gift bags.

"We set the charity up as Lee's mum spent a lot of time in this hospital with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma Cancer" Lorraine tells me. "We noticed how sad and bored patients looked when they didn't have visitors. Some didn't have family or friends to bring them something in."

A lot of the charity's fundraising is through sports based events, such as obstacle courses. Lorraine herself will be running 1000 miles this year for her personal fundraising efforts, as well as taking part in other charity runs and events which will take place throughout 2017.

Below is a photo of Lorraine and Lee at the charity's most recent trampoline event.

Katie Groome, who runs the health blog Cake vs Scales, is a supporter of TLF and attends around eighty per cent of the charity's fundraising events. She says, "The main thing I love about The Lewis Foundation is the fact they are not a huge faceless charity - Lorraine and Lee work tirelessly alongside their full time jobs. They also take great pride in involving everyone in fun and unique events. These events raise money for their charity who provide goodie bags that really do put a smile on people's faces.

"I feel very strongly about supporting local charities. In my opinion what The Lewis Foundation offers is thoughtful, useful and uplifting to those in need. If I can be a tiny part of bringing a smile to someone's face then that's okay with me."

If you want to support The Lewis Foundation, or for more information about their fundraising events, check out their website or follow them on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

If you are a charity or non-profit organisation who would like to be featured as my Charity of the Month (or if you would like to nominate one), please get in touch with me via Twitter or email nicspirational@gmail.com. This is a free service, however, while I will consider every application, it's impossible for me to feature every single one on the blog.

If you like this post, you might also enjoy:
Lace Up for Bones!

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Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Ten Things to Do with an Avocado

Everyone loves avocados, and with good reason. They're delicious, versatile and so good for you.
There are so many things you can do with an avocado. But first, if you're not quite sure how to prepare one, here's Mr Jamie Oliver showing you the best way to do so:

Once you've mastered the art of opening and pitting your avocado, why not try some of these ways of eating it:

1. One word: #avotoast. Smashed avocado on wholemeal toast is the best. Add a poached egg to send it over the top.

2. Whip up a guacamole using avocado, onion, tomato, coriander, lime juice, sea salt and chilli (if you like a bit of heat).

3. Make a healthy green smoothie like this one.

4. Add some chopped or sliced avocado to a salad.

5. Go back to the 70s by grabbing a spoon and scooping it straight from the shell into your mouth! 

6. Scoop out some of the flesh, crack an egg into the hole and bake at  425F/220C/gas mark 7 for about 15 minutes.

Eggvocado? Or avocadegg?

7. Make avocado chocolate mousse or brownies - yes, really! There are hundreds of recipes online to try.

8. Make a chilled avocado soup.

9. Use as a sandwich ingredient - chicken and avocado work particularly well together.

10. Whip up some avocado ice cream (I haven't tried this one myself but I'm told it's really good - just google 'avocado ice cream' for some recipes).

What are your favourite ways to eat avocado? Let me know in the comments!

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
Awesome Autumn Spices and Their Health Benefits

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Monday, 9 January 2017

Health Blogger Spotlight: Timea Jones, 'Train Strong to Live Strong'

My interviewee today is the lovely Timea Jones who runs the fitness blog Train Strong to Live Strong. I love meeting other health bloggers and hearing their story, and Timea has a great story to tell! So let's get to know her a little better...

Hi Timea! Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am a keen runner, self-confessed gym addict, wanna-be online trainer, and a new-ish fitness blogger from Hungary. Whilst writing is my true passion, being a Human Resources Advisor is my profession, at big financial services firm.

I usually start my day doing a trail run, or flipping enormous truck tyres in my local gym. It is not unusual for me to be covered in mud from head to toe. Many people would never guess this though, by the time I arrive in the office, I am transformed into the perfect office angel (sausaged into a tight pencil skirt and high heels).

I live in rural Buckinghamshire with my Hubby of 5 years, and our two fur-babies, Holly and Lydia. They are the naughtiest Siberian Forest cats and you should totally say 'hello' to them on Instagram @the_furminators.

Why did you start your blog and what can visitors expect to read there?

I have had my blog for a couple of years, but kept it as a hobby and used it as an outlet to write about my running and fitness adventures mainly for my own pleasure.
However, when I marginally missed out on a promotion at work in March 2016, it led me to look at my values and do some soul-searching about what I am really passionate about in life and what I truly stand for. The answer was clear: that I do not want to be stuck in a desk job for the rest of my life dealing with 'problem children' in the world of disciplinaries, grievances, redundancy projects and performance improvement plans. Therefore I decided to invest more time and energy into my blog to see where this would take me.

On my blog, I love writing about all things fitness and enjoy exploring topics around peak performance and resilience through developing the mindset of an athlete. 

What do you enjoy most about running a fitness blog?
People have said to me that I have a gift for writing and teaching. Some of my friends look at me as a life-coach in some ways. By engaging with people through my writing I feel I can make a more positive impact on their lives and be their go-to expert on the latest fitness and health 'know-how', bringing practical and actionable content to help them take their game to the next level.
Blogging has opened up a whole new world to me, I have enjoyed meeting and learning from other bloggers and like-minded people in various blogger communities. I also enjoy collaborating with healthy food brands, local gyms and health professionals.
Last, but not least, I have found blogging to be an excellent self-developmental tool, too - in my day job I rarely have the opportunity to be creative, but blogging is an excellent platform to unleash creativity. It feels like I am using parts of my brain now which have been dormant for a long time! I am also acquiring very useful and transferable new skills such as marketing, branding, research, influencing, project management, website development and even coding(!)

What do you feel is your greatest achievement in life?
So far I would say it was building a whole new life in England from scratch. When I moved here in 2007 from Hungary to find a better life after finishing university, I literally started at ground zero. I came here knowing no one but my English boyfriend (who is now my Hubby), had no job but just enough money in my pocket to keep me going for about two months tops. It was a real gamble. I started my new life living in a tiny hole above a noisy baguette shop, doing some casual work there to keep myself going until I finally found a decent office job. Through sheer determination and will, I managed to work my way up in different jobs, even gained some new qualifications here in the UK. Now I am a very happy wife and home owner. 
If you could give people only one piece of health advice, what would it be?
Move every day. Find an activity or sport you love doing so exercising will never feel like a chore and you will keep wanting to do more of it. That's the only way. 

And what's the most ridiculous piece of health/diet advice you've ever heard?
Weight loss pills, tea-tox products, slimming shoes, special magnetic bracelets with health boosting properties - unfortunately, many people still fall for these. I guess my mission as a fitness blogger is to help people look behind the glossy advertisements and educate them so they can make the right choices for themselves. 

Now a quickfire round! Choose one...
Cardio or weights? Weights - I have experienced the most dramatic physical transformation in myself through working with heavier weights. Running is the only form of cardio which I enjoy, mainly due to its mood boosting effects.
Olive oil or coconut oil? Coconut oil - I just love the smell when I cook with it!
Summer or winter? Definitely summer - I find winters here in the UK quite bleak.
Organic or fairtrade? Fairtrade - trying to look for the logo when buying coffee, tea and chocolate.
Green juices or pink smoothies? Pink smoothies - although sometimes I do sneak some spinach or kale into fruit smoothies for some extra goodness. 
Finally, what are your plans for the future? Do you have any specific goals for your life or your blog?
My ultimate goal is to design fitness and peak performance related online courses and workout programmes to generate some extra income through my blog. I am also planning to re-enter the Register of Exercise Professionals and refresh my Level 3 personal trainer qualification so that I can be viewed as a trusted fitness professional on my blog and teaching my future online courses. How and when I will fit it all in, is another question of course!

Find Timea at these links: BlogTwitter | Instagram | Free e-book
Are you a health or fitness blogger and fancy being interviewed for Nic's Healthy Life? Get in touch with me via Twitter or drop me an email at nicspirational@gmail.com - I'd love to hear from you!
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Saturday, 7 January 2017

Energising Green Smoothie Recipe

This smoothie is good at any time of year, but especially when you feel like you've overindulged. With its plethora of vitamins and minerals as well as healthy fats, its sooo good for you - and it tastes amazing, too. Give it a go!

Ingredients (serves 2):

1 small banana
Half an avocado
Half a mango
Handful of spinach and/or kale
2 teaspoons honey
1 cup coconut milk
Juice of half a lime
2 teaspoons supergreens powder (optional)
Handful of ice cubes

Whizz everything up in a blender and enjoy!

What do you love to put in your smoothies? Let me know in the comments!

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
Post Workout Smoothie Recipe

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Thursday, 5 January 2017

Why 'Teatoxes' Are a Rip-Off


Detox teas, AKA 'teatoxes', have been all the rage for a couple of years now and are becoming a popular weight-loss method for people trying to 'cleanse' their bodies and 'restore natural balance' after a bout of indulgence. This is why they are heavily marketed in January, although they're available year-round.

Many people, feeling bloated and lethargic after the excesses of Christmas and New Year festivities, fall victim to their claims of helping you to lose weight and look great. Well, who wouldn't jump at the chance of something which promises to increase your metabolism, burn calories and fat and aid in food digestion while suppressing your appetite and improving your skin? That sounds too good to be true! (Spoiler: it is).

I've been asked once or twice if I'd like to review/promote certain companies' teatox programmes on my blog and Instagram, and I've always refused. Whether they're branded 'detox tea', 'skinny tea', 'fit tea' or whatever else tea, they all seem to offer a miracle cure which they ultimately can't deliver. After all, there's absolutely NO scientific evidence to back up any of the supposed benefits. 

First of all, you have to eat a very low-calorie diet as well as exercise at the same time as drinking the tea if you want to see results. They don't advocate sitting on the sofa, stuffing your face with chocolate and expecting to lose weight. However, eating a low-calorie diet will cause you to lose weight by itself whether you drink herbal tea or not. But any diet plan which offers you a quick fix is not going to be sustainable in the long term. All you will achieve is to mess up your metabolism and as soon as you start eating normally again, you'll gain all the weight back and then some.

Also, you don't need to drink tea to 'detoxify' or 'cleanse' your body - you have a liver for a reason! One company even goes so far as selling both a 'daytime cleanse' and a 'bedtime cleanse' so you have to buy TWO packs of their product - I'd say you couldn't make this stuff up, but apparently someone did (and is now making a lot of money from their idea!).

A prominent ingredient in most detox teas is the senna leaf - a non-prescription laxative which irritates the stomach lining and can lead to cramps, dizziness, fainting, vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration. Most people lose a few pounds after a bout of vomiting and diarrhoea, but as it's just water weight and not fat that has been lost we quickly regain it as soon as we start eating and drinking properly again.

Using a teatox for more than fourteen days can cause abnormal bowel function or changes in electrolyte levels that can lead to heart problems, muscle weakness, liver damage and other harmful effects. Why would you want to risk that?

So, what's the best way to lose those extra pounds and give yourself more energy? I'm sure you know my answer...good old healthy eating and exercise. Unfortunately there is no quick fix - there never has been and there never will be. Drink plenty of water, eat a varied diet rich in fruit and vegetables, work out at least three times a week and go to bed at a reasonable hour. Don't buy into any of these trendy diet fads - spend your money on something useful.

Have you ever tried a 'teatox'? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
Why 'Fitspiration' is Anything But

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Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Guest Post: SMART Tips for Getting Fit in the New Year

My guest blogger today is Sarah Bockhart from sarahbockhart.com. Sarah has been in the personal training industry since 2008. She specialises in sports massage, cardiac rehabilitation, exercise with medical conditions and teaches a number of different fitness classes. Today she's going to share with us a great way to achieve our fitness goals! Take it away, Sarah:

There are not many people who aren’t at least thinking about fitness in the lead up to the New Year, right?. If you’re not used to training regularly but want to dust off your trainers come January 1st, here’s my guide to using the SMART model (an acronym that gives you the basic criteria to set objectives for a certain goal or goals) to starting a new regimen.

S: Specific
The first rule of SMART goals is to be specific with what you want to achieve. Whether it means simply saying the goal out loud or writing your goal down. Only instead of saying “I want to get fitter in the New Year” you could say “I want to exercise for 20 minutes, three times a week”. It gives you much more direction for the next stages of the SMART model.
M: Measurable
Next, is your goal measurable? How will you know you’ve accomplished it? How do you know what steps it will take to reach it? This can mean, for example, the way you measure that you’ve completed three walks a week, (i.e. tick it off your calendar) or it could be as simple as using your watch to measure the total time you’ve walked each session so you know when 20 minutes are up (because you may only regularly walk for 15 minutes currently and this is your way of measuring the increase). If you want to complete a 5km run in the summer you can use a tracking app to measure the distances you complete in the lead up or you can go one further and encourage your friends to measure together using a leader board at work or online. Bullet journalling is also a great and creative way to track and set goals. 

A: Achievable
If you commute to work for a 2-3 hour round trip and don’t get home until 8-9pm every night, then setting yourself a goal to exercise for 2 hours per day probably isn’t something you’re likely to achieve (unless of course, you’re Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who sets an alarm at stupid o’clock in the morning to get up and train before a day’s work and more training in the evening). Evaluate your lifestyle and adapt a plan around it so you are setting yourself up to succeed.

R: Realistic
This one is quite self-explanatory. If you are the type of person who doesn’t like to be off in the great outdoors or you will more than likely stay in if there’s so much of a sniff of the chance of rain...it’s probably not realistic for you to commit to jogging 5 nights a week. It’s so important to choose something you are realistically going to stick with. This, to me, means finding something you enjoy doing. It could mean trying new classes or ideas, some you like and some you hate, but when you find that healthy obsession it makes keeping fit 110% easier! Likewise, if you have a chronic medical condition or injury that will hold back what you can and can’t do, set realistic mini-goals. This works hand in hand with the “achievable” aspect and sometimes the two blend together.

T: Time
Giving yourself a time to work to can help you stick to your plan and give yourself a little nudge with a sense of internal competition. Saying to yourself “I’d like to run 5km” doesn’t inspire you to commit to training like “I’ve booked myself on to a 5km charity run, I know I can walk it but I’d like to run the entire thing on the day” does. It not only gives you a date but a goal and a distance to work up to. Other examples of time scales are “I want to fit into the next size down trousers by the wedding in May” or “I’d like to feel confident in my swim-wear for my holiday in September”.

Don’t forget, if you’ve set yourself the goal with all of the best intentions and you feel it start to dwindle, there is nothing wrong with taking a different approach and re-evaluating your SMART goal. This model can be used for one long term goal and many short and medium term goals. Life gets in the way sometimes and that’s okay!

Sarah has uploaded a very basic food plan to get people back into preparation and avoid snacking in the new year, which you can find here. 

Thanks for this amazingly helpful post, Sarah! If anyone else would like to guest post for me, please get in touch!

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
Why You Should Keep a Workout Diary (and how to do it)

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Sunday, 1 January 2017

New Year Giveaway! Win a Year's Subscription to HEALTHY Magazine

If you've decided to use the new year as an opportunity to get healthier but need a little motivation, then this giveaway is for you!

I'm going to buy one lucky reader a year's subscription to the UK's top-selling (and my favourite) wellness magazine, Healthy. I've been reading this mag for about ten years now and I love its mixture of health, lifestyle, psychology and fitness articles.

To win, just enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. You can do as many or as few of the options as you like, but the more you do, the more entries you'll receive! The only mandatory option is to follow me on Twitter as that's where I'll be announcing the winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
A couple of rules...
- This competition is open worldwide.
- You must be over 18 to enter OR have your parents' permission as you will need to send me your address if you win.

FYI: This giveaway is not sponsored; I will personally pay for your subscription.

Good luck!

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Friday, 30 December 2016

Six Inspirational Health Blogs to Read in 2017

If you seem to have eaten your body weight in mince pies and selection boxes this December, your new year's resolution is probably to get back on the wagon and start feeling a little bit healthier.

One of the best places to find healthy recipes, fitness motivation and wellness inspiration is from bloggers – real people with real stories to share. So I've compiled a list of six blogs to read in 2017 to kick start you on your journey to better health.

Helen is a running blogger who has completed three marathons and also runs the UK Fitness Bloggers network. Helen's blog documents her health and fitness journey as well as useful posts like how to stay motivated and tips for keeping safe while running on winter nights.

Lucy is a triathlete and a This Girl Can ambassador. She uses her blog to write about the triathlons she completes and helpful information such as pain you shouldn't ignore while working out, reviews and gift ideas.

Fiona is a runner, climber and hiker. Her site provides a mixture of lifestyle posts, race reports and product reviews. According to Fiona, her blog is for anyone who 'loves living the healthy life but doesn't love that healthy now comes with a rule book'.

Jenna is an inflammatory bowel disease sufferer who decided to create a blog to help others dealing with gut issues, from coeliac disease to IBS to crohn's. She blogs about gut health, intolerances, gluten-free recipes and healthy living advice.

5. Be Healthy Now
Petra is passionate about natural remedies and a holistic approach to health. She also loves cycling and hiking. Her blog includes reviews of natural beauty products, organic recipes and fitness tips.

6. Purple Fitness
Charlie is a certified fitness and health coach who runs Cambridge Bootcamps, a 45-minute total body workout for women of all ages and fitness levels. Her blog is a mixture of motivational posts and personal stories.

Enjoy reading these blogs and have a happy & healthy 2017!

By the way, if you're a health blogger or sometimes post about health (or even if you're just interested in it), follow my Twitter RT account @HealthBlogRT to promote your posts and find others to read - you never know, your blog might end up being featured in a future post!

Tell me: who are your favourite health bloggers? Or just leave your blog link in the comments so I can check you out!

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
Five Best Health & Fitness Resources

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