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Cave-Chicken Casserole (Introducing “The Cooking Irishman”)

25 Mar
Cave-Chicken Casserole: I love me some cave-chicken!

Cave-Chicken Casserole: I love me some cave-chicken!

Champ: “Do you know what they call bats?”
Ron: “Bats!?”
Champ: “Chicken of the cave”
Ron: “No one calls them chicken of the cave”…

After careful investigation I later discovered that, in fact, bats are not known as “Chicken of the cave”!

I was however left with a hankering for some chicken… just not the deep-fried, fast food, could possibly be a bat, kind of chicken. With last week’s article on the Paleo Diet still fresh in my mind, and with the necessity of having to feed my family  (Mam, Dad and four hungry Man-boys) for dinner, I set about rustling up a Paleo-Chicken caserole that would make any prehistoric foodie whip out his iPhone and Instagram the s#!t out of that foodgasm (I’m not sure if “foodgasm” is an appropriate word to use but I really think it’s the word a prehistoric hunter-gatherer would whisper, with his eyes closed in ecstasy, upon tasting this paleo-poultry.

(I really enjoyed writing that last paragraph 😀 )

On top of all that, I’ve also wanted to write a recipe post for a while. I love food blogs and this is my chance to spread my writing wings a little and try something new… (it’s fairly obvious I haven’t been dancing for a while, right!)

Cave-Chicken Casserole
The chicken used in this recipe neither lived in a cave nor was a creepy, flying mammal. It gets it’s name from the fact that everything used in the recipe is Paleo Diet (otherwise known as the Caveman Diet) friendly . Can I get a “Wuhoo”?

It’s high in protein, high in fat (none of which are damaged or refined), high in fiber and antioxidants, low in carbs, dairy-free, grain-free and gluten free. It also taste’s like what the God’s of Mount Olympus eat every Tuesday night… you know, the night they all make sure they’re home early so they can get an extra large helping of this awesomeness. It’s that good!

And I think that’s the important thing about this. I call this recipe “Paleo” because it fits in with the guidelines of some famous diet, but the truth is that this is just a healthy and importantly, delicious meal. I wouldn’t change anything about it. There is no need to add non-paleo ingredients to it because it is just THAT good. I might play around with the spices but that would be for a different taste experience. Trust me, I know my food!

The recipe is at the end but the pictures will give you an idea of how it all comes together. You’ll also notice that I cooked loads. This made 9 portions, so it fed everyone for dinner and had plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day (because I’m lazy and didn’t want to cook again).

Materials & Method
(Yes, I’m a science nerd). Cut up some carrots into bite-sized chunks. Chuck ’em in a big casserole dish!

Mmm, cavemen love carrots. Reminds them of their clubs!

Mmm, cavemen love carrots. Reminds them of their clubs!

Next, cut some onions into quarters, separate the layers and chuck em’ into the casserole dish. I got fancy and used half yellow onions and half red onions. Yes, I’m that fancy.

Chickens love onions... Fa

Chickens love onions… Fact!

Next up I added some quartered button mushrooms but you can add whatever type you want. Chestnut or portobello would be great. I really recommend using mushrooms as they really add to the flavor of the sauce when cooked… unless you’re allergic to mushrooms. In that case don’t add them… that would be stupid.

I killed all these mushrooms myself. Super Mario would be so proud... or horrified... I can't remember.

I killed all these mushrooms myself. Super Mario would be so proud… or horrified… I can’t remember.

Next, chop up some bell peppers into chunks. I once again went with my theme of using two different colours. Aren’t I artistic? At this point I realized that the dish was getting pretty full.

On a related note, red and green are the colours of my village's Gaelic Football team. Nice!

On a related note, red and green are the colours of my village’s Gaelic Football team. Nice!

Some of you may disagree with my next choice. I finely chopped two sticks of celery and add that to the veggie mix. Here’s the thing, if you ask anyone in my house what they think of celery they will all say that they hate it. I can’t blame them. It’s not on the top of anyone’s favorite foods list. However, used as a seasoning agent, it adds a savory depth to the flavor of many meat dishes. I started adding it to my lasagnas and now my lasagnas are pretty damn spectacular. Anyway, just chop it up finely and no-one needs to know.

It'll be our little secret ;-)

It’ll be our little secret 😉

For a final, antioxidant-punch I added a chopped up head of broccoli, one of my favorite vegetables (when it’s cooked well). It doesn’t seem I will be fitting much chicken into this casserole dish.

Studies have shown that when cavemen went "courting" they would rub themselves with broccoli to attract mates. True story!

Studies have shown that when cavemen went “courting” they would rub themselves with old broccoli to attract mates. True story!

Next, I needed to make the sauce, the main ingredients of which are coconut milk, tomato puree and seasoning.

Coconut milk has become a staple in my kitchen.

Coconut milk has become a staple in my kitchen.

So to make the sauce, in a separate jug, I mixed up the coconut milk, tomato puree, oregano, a full head of chopped garlic, cayenne pepper for a little kick, sea salt and a generous dose of freshly ground black pepper. If you have it I would also add the juice of half or a whole lemon. Citric acid is a great flavor enhancer. Once mixed together, it came out looking a little like this…

The coconut milk and tomato puree are the two most processed ingredients in this entire recipe. The Gods of Paleo are smiling upon me.

The coconut milk and tomato puree are the two most processed ingredients in this entire recipe. The Gods of Paleo are smiling upon me.

At this point, the one very full dish was worrying me so I snapped my fingers and…

Holy crap. How'd he do that?

Holy crap. How’d he do that?

Next comes the part everyone’s been waiting for. To satisfy the beast-like appetites of my family, I added a beast-like… beast!? Anyway, I threw in some chicken thigh joints on top of the veggies. I recommend using thighs for a few reasons. The meat of the thigh is higher in fat than the breast and so tastes better. The bones in the legs, once they get cooked, add much more flavor to the sauce than chicken breast alone can. They look a lot better once they’re all cooked (you’ll see the photo later) and to top it off, it’s much cheaper than buying chicken breast. However, if you want to go with chicken breast for convenience, go for it. The same goes for other cave-beasts too: cave-pig, cave-sheep, cave-cow etc. As you can see in the photo, I left the skin on but you can remove it before cooking (just give it a firm tug) if you want to reduce the fat content of the dish.

I also tracked and hunted these chicken thighs myself. I have no idea how they were getting around without being attached to the rest of the chicken.

I also tracked and hunted these chicken thighs myself. I have no idea how they were getting around without being attached to the rest of the chicken.

We’re almost there folks. Next I just poured the sauce haphazardly over the chicken and veggies. If you want to slather the sauce over the meat more evenly, go for it. I like to slather… or maybe I just like saying “slather”. I’ll stop now. It will appear that you don’t have enough sauce, don’t panic. Stay calm and add a little extra water into the bottom of the casserole dishes (I used less than  500 ml of extra water between both dishes).

It will look like you don't have enough sauce but don't worry, I got your back!

It will look like you don’t have enough sauce but don’t worry, I got your back!

The last step before cooking is to cover the dishes, this will keep keep steam in the dish and prevent the sauce from condensing too much. If you have tight fitting lids for your dishes, perfect, if not, use aluminium foil sealed tightly around the sides. I don’t like using aluminium foil but sometimes it really is indispensable.

Look at how well I covered that!

Look at how well I covered that!

Now, if we were real cavemen we would collect wood, build a fire using a piece of flint and throw the casserole dish into the fire. We, however, are more civilized than that. We’ll use science (hurrah!)  and put the dish into into a preheated oven at 170° C for about two to two and a half hours. You don’t need to stir it or mess with, just leave the magic fire box do its work and you should get something that looks a little like this:

Oh yeah, that's the money shot right there.

Oh yeah, that’s the money shot right there.

As you can see, all the coconut-tomat0 mix has sunk down to the vegetables and mixed with the juices from the chicken meat and bones to make a sauce that would bring a tear to a caveman’s eye.

The chicken served with the veggies is a meal in itself but if you feel the necessity for extra carbs, it goes great with roasted sweet potato.

Ingredient List
For those of you who at this stage are probably going bonkers due to me not mentioning the exact quantities of my ingredients, here the list (people like lists):

  • Carrots: 6 med-large
  • Onions: 4 small-med
  • Mushrooms: ~500g
  • Bell peppers: 2 large
  • Celery: 2 large sticks
  • Broccoli: 1 large head (~400g)
  • Chicken legs & thighs: 9 (~2.8kg)

Sauce:

  • Coconut Milk: 2 cans (400ml each)
  • Tomato paste: 1 tube (200g)
  • Oregano: ~2 tsp
  • Garlic: 1 head
  • Cayenne Pepper: ~2 tsp
  • Black Pepper: ~2 tsp
  • Salt: 1-2 tsp
  • Lemon juice: ~whole lemon (optional)

 

Nutritional Breakdown
I used the USDA Nutrient Database to help me calculate the nutrient values for this meal. If you tend to get a little OCD about food I recommend staying away from this site, it’s got soooo much information.

Each portion of cave-chicken casserole contains approximately:

  • Calories: 695
  • Fat: 45g
  • Protein: 47g
  • Carbs: 33g
  • Fiber: 7g

On top of that it’s bursting with antioxidants and phytonutrients from the mini vegetable garden we chopped up at the start. Packed with high quality protein and the fat is saturated (which is not “bad” as it has been demonized to be over the years) and a lot of it consists of medium-chain triglycerides from the coconut milk, which are easily metabolized for energy. I personally would have this, as is (i.e. no extra carbs on the side) on a low-carb day as it’s a little high in fat so avoiding carbs will help you to avoid wearing them later 😉 .

The Cooking Irishman
And that’s that. My first endeavor into the world of recipe blogging. May it be the first of many. A very healthy, very paleo feast for all you wanna-be cavemen and cavewomen out there. I hope you like.

On another note I’m aware that my photos don’t look quite as sexy as the ones you can see on Food Porn Daily but I’ll try and improve for the next one. Promise.

Eat well, folks.

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Have you been working-out lately? Because you look spectacular 🙂 If you liked this article go ahead and share it with your friends via the Facebook or Twitter buttons below and if you use Stumbleupon please give it a “Thumbs Up”. I’d really appreciate it 😉

 

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Cheat Day Diary (A Photographic Record of a Day of Pure Food Hedonism)

7 Aug

I don’t drink… I don’t smoke… I don’t do drugs… but by God do I EAT!!!

A well managed cheat day does not have to be a diet ruiner!

A well managed cheat day does not have to be a diet ruiner!

I have had a weekly cheat day for almost 7 years now and I refined my technique greatly after reading Tim Ferris’s “The 4 Hour Body”. I try to eat as clean as I can during the week but 1 day of pure food-based hedonism out of every 7 helps keep me sane and reminds me how crappy junk food makes me feel. I’ve written about the importance of cheat days for sticking to eating plans here!

The World Games ended here last Sunday (my usual cheat day) so this week I decided to make a pig of myself on Monday.

Here’s a step-by-step, bite-by-bite guide to gorging like a professional eater and not worrying about the repercussions. I’ve included estimates of calorie intake for the meals as best I can.

9.00am: Coffee to start the engines
I start a cheat day the same way I do every other day of the week. Three large glasses of ice-cold water followed by two large mugs of strong, black coffee. I “intermittent fast” so I don’t take any calories before at least midday which means I don’t use milk or sugar.

The caffeine in the coffee causes your body to release lipids from fat-cells into the blood stream when your body is in a fasted state. That means your morning coffee gets you burning fat as soon as you wake up.
Calories: 0

11.45am: Gym

Just back form the gym and ready to start my day of gluttony

Just back form the gym and ready to start my day of gluttony

I’m nursing an elbow injury at the moment and both my physiotherapist and chiropractor advised me to avoid upper body  movements for the next month. So I had a fairly heavy leg’s day to make up for it. I did eleven sets of 5 reps of squats pyramiding up to and then down from my maximum weight.

Having a cheat day on a heavy exercise day means that some of the excess calories you consume will at least be put to good use in rebuilding your muscles.

I also try to cycle around the city throughout the day to keep my muscles active which promotes the shuttling of nutrients into muscle cells in preference to fat storage.

1.00pm: Sugar Rush

Two local specialities, "Panelita de Leche" and "Arequipe". They're pretty much sugar and milk!

Two local specialties, “Panelita de Leche” and “Arequipe”. They’re pretty much sugar and milk!

Right after heavy exercise muscles need sugar to halt the catabolic (muscle break down) effects of cortisol. To begin the anabolic (muscle building) process nothing is better than high-glycemic (fast release) sugars. I normally use a couple of bananas but seeing as I didn’t have any food left in the house (I had no time to go shopping while volunteering at the games) these little desserts I received during the games had to suffice.
Calories: 180

1.20pm: Grilled Beef, Bolognaise, Cheese and Vegetable Sandwich

My first lunch; a surprisingly god sandwich!

My first lunch; a surprisingly good sandwich!

Calories: 600

1.50pm: Banana Bread

I really love good banana bread. This was far from the best I've ever had.

I really love good banana bread. Unfortunately this wasn’t that good!.

Calories: 200

2.10pm: Fried Chicken, Rice, Fried Potatoes, Roasted Plantain, Salad & Passion-fruit juice in milk

This was a nice post workout carb-boost

This was a nice post workout carb-boost (Roasted plantain and fried yellow potatoes are amongst my favourite foods in Colombia)

The day previously I had a whole conversation about fried chicken with my buddy Santana which combined with watching the movie “Soul Plane” left me with some serious cravings for fried chicken. This really hit the spot.

Gloves for eating chicken are such a great idea.

Gloves for eating chicken are such a great idea.

I also had to show a picture of something I’ve only seen in Colombia. People eat fried chicken here with gloves and although it looks weird at first it really is a great idea and stops your fingers getting super greasy.

Also, if you’ve never tried passion fruit juice in milk before, you haven’t lived
Calories: 1300

3.30pm: Peach Genovesa and Black Coffee

This is at one of my favourite cafes in Cali

This is at one of my favorite cafes in Cali

A genovesa is like a sponge cake that has been soaked in condensed milk and cream to create an incredibly wet, sweet cake which in this case was topped with peach compote. I try not to drink my calories so the coffee was black and unsweetened.

On another note, if you’re wondering how I pass my time in between mouthfuls, I read a lot while I’m eating. I always have a selection of books stored on my phone so I never get bored while I’m gorging myself.
Calories: 500

4.10pm: Cherry Cheesecake Ice-cream

Some of Colombia's best icecream courtesy of "Crepes & Waffles"

Some of Colombia’s best ice-cream courtesy of “Crepes & Waffles”

Calories: 200

4.40pm: Almojabana

One of Colombia's better pastry products: Light, slightly cheesy and with a hint of sweetness

One of Colombia’s better pastry products: Light, slightly cheesy and with a hint of sweetness

Calories: 180

4.50pm: Oreo-Cream Cupcake

This expensive little fecker neither lived up to its name nor price tag

This expensive little fecker neither lived up to its name nor its price tag

Calories: 300

5.00pm: Calorie Mate

"Cheese" flavor apparently... they should return to testing.

“Cheese” flavor, apparently… they really should return to taste testing.

Calorie Mate is a product that anyone who has lived in Japan for any decent length of time will recognize. It’s basically a “nutritionally balanced” meal replacement biscuit. I received loads from the Japanese Ultimate Frisbee Team that I was translating for during the World Games. I fail to understand it’s popularity.
Calories: 200

5.10pm: Instant “Tan Tan Men” noodles

Another gift from the Japanese Frisbee Team.

Another gift from the Japanese Frisbee Team.

Calories: 120

5.20pm: Probiotic Yogurt

This is my favourite yoghurt here because of the probiotic mix it contains

This is my favorite yogurt here because of the probiotic mix it contains

Eating huge quantities of sugar and other junk foods can play havoc with your intestinal flora (the bacteria that live in your digestive tract) so I always make sure I take a good hit of probiotic (good bacteria) yogurt when I have a cheat day to help restore the balance of good bacteria faster.
Calories: 50

5.30pm: Nutella (imitation)

Not the real deal but just as tasty!

Not the real deal but just as tasty!

I found this imitation nutella on special offer. I hadn’t had nutella in a while so I added it to the cart. I polished off half of it the way it’s supposed to be done… straight out of the jar with a spoon.
Calories: 550

7.00pm: Oreo Ice-cream

This stuff is simply orgasmic!

This stuff is simply orgasmic!

I have a serious weakness for Ice-cream and this Oreo ice-cream by Popsy is amazing (I avoided it for ages because I “kind of” snobbishly looked down on oreos but it really is an amazing ice-cream. I got through about three quarters of the tub.
Calories: 1200

8.00pm: Oatmeal (The Cleanup Guy)

One very runny bowl of porridge (oatmeal)

One very runny bowl of porridge (oatmeal)

It’s a great idea to finish off a cheat day with a good punch of soluble fiber. This helps to move the food through your digestive tract faster and the soluble fiber also cleans your intestines along the way helping to expel any waste that might otherwise remain after such a day of gluttony.

A couple of tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseeds in water (swallowed as fast as possible as it’s horrible stuff) would be even better.
Calories: 50

9.10pm: One seriously distended stomach

To say that I was on the point of exploding would be quite accurate.

To say that I was on the point of exploding would be quite accurate.

Grand Calorie Total: 5630

Am I worried about this huge glut of calories? No.

Why? Because every other day of the week I eat very, very healthy food in very controlled portions.

If I ate like this everyday I wouldn’t live very long. I would probably have died of a heart attack or diabetes years ago. But I have more sense than that. I realize how important diet is in maintaining one’s health but I’m also aware that it is what you eat most of the time and not what you eat only rarely that makes the difference.

I’ve written a few pointers on how to correctly manage a cheat day at the end of this article. Read and understand them and you too can enjoy a day of pure food pleasure once a week and not have to worry about ruining your diet progress.

Happy Eating Folks

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Have you been working-out lately? Because you look spectacular 🙂 If you liked this article go ahead and share it with your friends via the Facebook or Twitter buttons below and if you use Stumbleupon please give it a “Thumbs Up”. I’d really appreciate it 😉

The Lean Mean Salsa Machine (A concise guide to Eating, Moving and Sleeping)

23 May

No matter what you attempt in life, if your body isn’t in tip-top condition, reaching your goals will be nowhere near as easy as when your at your optimum.

For this reason I try to keep myself as healthy as circumstances allow and I’ve developed a pretty good awareness of what works for me and what doesn’t. I’ve been interested in nutrition and exercise science since I was a chubby, unfit 15 year old who spent his time eating junk, playing video games and watching excessive amounts of TV. Since then I’ve devoured a small library of texts about health and I’ve changed my lifestyle considerably and now, thankfully, feel and look a whole lot better.

Abs: for many, the whole world of fitness and nutrition seems to boil down to a hard, lumpy stomach!

Abs: for many, the whole world of fitness and nutrition seems to boil down to a hard, lumpy stomach! Just in case you’re wondering, these aren’t my abs (I never wear black)!

When I’m running at optimum, it makes everything else I do a breeze and I believe that everyone else should do their utmost to look after their bodies so they can always bring their A-game to the dance floor (and everywhere else in life).

I could (and probably will at some stage) write individual posts for many of the points I’m going to mention here, but for the time-being I’m just going to give a concise guide to some easily modifiable aspects of your lifestyle. There are many people who will disagree with some of these points but that doesn’t bother me in the least. I’m only going to talk about things that I know work or have worked for me and may work for you too.

A note on individuality and self-assessment
Everybody is different (thankfully) and that means what works for one may very well not work for another. Thus, I can’t stress the importance of actively experimenting and trying to find what works best for you.
Please try out the following recommendations (and whatever variations of them which you can come up with) and take note of how your body reacts over time. Keep what works for you and discard whatever doesn’t.
Unfortunately, a lot of us these days have been in a state of suboptimal health for so long that we no longer know what it feels like to be truly healthy. So get some outside help and monitor your progress by measuring whatever values you can (weight, body fat, blood pressure, cholesterol etc.) before and after you make these changes. Give them time (at least 4 weeks) to take effect and hopefully at that stage these healthy habits will have stuck.

The following points are in no particular order. While I consider them all important I will make note of those which I feel have a particularly profound affect on your health. Obviously, the cumulative affect of a number of these together is greater than doing any one on it’s own.

Get enough sleep

This one is incredibly important. Lack of sleep disrupts hormones enormously especially those involved in growth and repair and appetite control. Getting sufficient sleep is essential for your body to reset and repair itself every day so can be ready for what the day throws at you.

I know from experience that when I don’t get enough sleep (for me 7-8 hours) the next day I’ll be rife with food cravings and much more likely to eat something that I shouldn’t, when I shouldn’t. Lack of sleep is one of the major reasons (I believe) that people develop food cravings that sabotage their attempts to eat healthily.

What constitutes enough sleep? This varies for everyone, some need less, some more, but I feel that 7-8 hours is a good starting point. If you have trouble sleeping try to address it as soon as possible (it may be as simple as using earplugs and an eye-mask, which I’ve been doing for years).

Don’t smoke

If you’re still doing this, you’re an idiot. Quit!

Don’t drink

While there may be some minor benefits to a little alcohol, these are far outweighed by the detrimental effects of its consumption in excess (experience tells me that the majority of people who drink, do so in excess).

I’m very lucky in that I never started drinking when I was a teenager and neither have I ever felt the necessity to do so. Do your body and your wallet a favor and either reduce your alcohol consumption significantly or eliminate it altogether.

Learn to read food labels

You can not know what you’re consuming if you don’t what is in your food. Learn to read food labels quickly (just takes a little practice) so you can scan them and eliminate unhealthy choices quickly and efficiently.

A good rule of thumb is; the longer the ingredient list the less likely it is to be a healthy food choice.

Eat enough fruit & vegetables to put a small cow to shame

Your parents were not lying to you when they told you to eat more veggies as a kid. Vegetables are not only full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants but they also contains hundreds, even thousands, of so far undocumented substances that can have a profound effect on keeping us healthy and disease free.

This is an example of what I have to lug home from my local supermarket every week! If you're not getting exercise just by carrying your veggies home, you're not eating enough?

This is an example of what I have to lug home from my local supermarket every week! If you’re not getting exercise just by carrying your veggies home, you’re not eating enough?

Eat as many different coloured vegetables as you can every day but focus on dark-green leafy vegetables (like spinach, lettuce, cabbage etc.) and try to get plenty of them raw too. Make it a point to eat one huge, leafy-green salad every day.

Caveat: You should be eating vastly more vegetables than fruit, as veggies are far more nutritionally dense and some fruits contain a lot of sugar (which is fine if your exercising regularly but may not be so good for you if your sedentary). For moderately-active to active people, 3 to 5 pieces of fruit a day is fine (1 piece is equivalent to an apple, a banana, a medium slice of pineapple, a big handful of berries etc.). Dried fruit should be avoided, it’s far too calorie dense.

Cook for yourself

The most surefire way to know exactly what you’re putting into your body is to prepare your own food (or as much of it as possible).

I’ve always loved cooking but if you can’t, now is the time to learn. You don’t need to be a master chef either. Just learn a few healthy recipes that you like and alternate them.

You don’t have time, you say? I’m a time-efficiency freak so I’ve developed a few routines to keep my kitchen time as low as possible. The trick is to cook in bulk. I prepare up to 10 meals worth of food in a gigantic pot, divide it into separate containers, freeze it and then just heat it up when I need it. At any one time, my freezer is full of different chilies, curries and stews ready to be eaten at a moments notice.

Eliminate grains from your diet

I never buy bread, pasta or rice. Grains, especially processed ones are simply sources of calories and provide little nutritional value when compared to other carbohydrate sources such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, plantains and legumes.

Whatever nutrients they do contain are poorly absorbed due to compounds they contain called phytates which bind to minerals in food and prevent their absorption in your gut. So all you get is a hefty dose of carbohydrates that wreaks havoc with your blood sugar and will leave you feeling hungry in a few short hours.

The worst offenders are gluten containing grains such as wheat, rye, barley and oats as the gluten content has a negative effect on digestibility and gut health which, although not having as strong an affect in the general population as in people with coeliac disease, can result in sub-par physical condition. Think of how full you felt the last time you had a heavy meal full of pasta or bread, it probably took quite a while for that uncomfortably full, bloated feeling to subside. That’s more than likely the gluten blocking up your digestive tract.

Do this as a test; entirely eliminate gluten containing grains and their products from your diet for about 3 weeks and then have a meal containing bread or pasta. Do not expect to feel well a few hours later!

Eliminate processed sugar

SUGAR IS THE DEVIL!!! Repeat it until the phrase sticks in your head folks, “Sugar is the devil”.

This one point alone will have a huge affect on your health (and appearance).

The real culprit in sugar is probably fructose which more and more scientific studies are showing has negative affects on health when consumed in excess (which is what most people consume). It has been linked to obesity, liver damage, high blood pressure and even gout. No one wants gout!

Unfortunately, sugar is as addictive as crack (or so I’ve read) and is ubiquitous in modern processed foods. Sugar is pure carbohydrate with absolutely no nutritional value and you should avoid it in all it’s forms so check labels for the following; table sugar, high fructose corn-syrup, honey, raw cane sugar, fructose, sucrose, rice syrup, agave syrup etc. Although some of these are lauded as health foods, they are virtually all identical; almost pure sugar, devoid of fiber and containing only trace amounts (if any) of vitamins and minerals.

I have, in the past, dropped my body-fat significantly by simply eliminating foods containing refined sugar, and nothing else, from my diet.

Remember, “Sugar is the devil!”

Get enough protein

Be it animal or vegetable protein, aim for about one gram per kilogram of lean body-weight. Protein helps to repair your body (especially after strenuous exercise) and keeps you feeling fuller for longer than carbs or fat.

Good sources are lean meats, fish, eggs and (if your a vegetarian/vegan) properly cooked legumes like lentils and beans. A simple rule of thumb is that you get between 20-25 grams of protein per 100 grams of uncooked meat or legumes.

Get adequate Omega-3 oils

Diets high in Omega-3 oils have been shown to improve symptoms of chronic inflammation (such as arthritis and psoriasis), depression, heart disease and a whole host of other ailments common in the modern world. Unfortunately they’re not so easy to consume if you don’t eat a lot of oily fish, like trout and salmon, which are amongst the best sources of these healthy fats.

While Omega-3 oils can be found in plant sources like flax and chia seeds, walnuts and hemp oil, they need to be converted to more active forms (EPA and DHA) by the body, which is not very efficient at doing this. So in my opinion the best way to get them is to eat a large portion of fatty fish such as salmon, trout or mackerel once a week. If you’re a fan of salmon sashimi like I am this will be good new for you. If you’re not a big fish fan (like I was before I lived in Japan and Colombia) you can always buy Omega-3 supplements (of which Krill-oil is now supposed to be the best option).

Exercise

Your body was made to move and if your not moving, your doing yourself a great disservice. Doing any type of exercise is better than doing none but I really recommend lifting weights (here’s the routine I recommend that actually made me love going to the gym) for the huge changes it can bring about in your appearance and in how you feel everyday. Lifting weights is a great form of exercise for both men and women (ladies, don’t believe any “lies” you may have heard about women who lift weights ending up looking like the incredible hulk, it just doesn’t happen like that. Some of the most beautiful bodies I have ever seen have been those of women who lift weights regularly).

This is what you look like without exercise. Remember: diet makes you look good in clothes, exercise makes you look good naked!!!

This is what you look like without exercise.
Remember: diet makes you look good in clothes, exercise makes you look good naked!!! (The spelling mistake isn’t mine)

If you can’t find a gym try body weight exercises like push-ups, chin-ups etc at home. If you can’t do anything else, running is fine but you get much more bang for your buck, so to speak, by dedicating your time to more intense exercise like weightlifting.

That said, the effect of regular, low intensity exercise can’t be ignored. I know from experience that I lose weight quickly if I’m social dancing 3 or 4 times a week and when I’m cycling a lot. A bicycle is usually one of the first things I buy when I move to a new city and I try to travel by bike as much as possible so I’m getting some exercise everyday.

Avoid environmental toxins

This one, unfortunately, is not so easy to accomplish in the modern world. Our food, homes, cooking utensils and hygiene products are loaded with chemicals that disrupt hormones and in many cases are linked to cancer and other diseases.

For this, I try to reduce the amount of chemicals I use in my home as much as possible, I never cook with aluminium nor  non-stick cook-wear and I reduce the amount of contact my food has with plastics of all types.

Fast

These days, people eat a lot, so much so that we can rarely truly say that we have an empty stomach. A great deal of research these days is revealing the beneficial effects of fasting, especially in the area of weight loss.

I’ve practiced fasting, in one form or another, since I was in university and have always felt better because of it. It gives your body, especially your digestive system, a chance to rest and reset for itself and it has a hugely beneficial effect on the hormonal systems involved in repair, weight loss and blood sugar control. I used to do a weekly one day fast but now I practice intermittent fasting (eating a late lunch and dinner and no breakfast) almost everyday.

Not only do I feel healthier doing this but I also save a huge amount of time during the day as instead of eating 4 times a day, as I used to, I only eat two big meals daily which means I spend a lot less time preparing food and have more free time to dedicate to things I want/need to do. Hunger pangs are rare and when they do happen they last for less than 5 minutes and then disappear. I also feel an amazing mental clarity while I’m fasting which I can only attribute to much more stable blood sugar and hormones. Give it a try and feel the difference.

Be flexible

The world is not perfect and neither are humans. No one can be expected to eat perfectly all the time. Life gets in the way; parties, dinners, dates, holidays, stress etc. can all mess up the best of intentions. If you slip up, accept it and get back on track as quickly as possible (I find fasting a great way to reset the system after a lapse into poor eating) and remember it’s what you do most of the time that maters rather than what you do 100% of the time.

If you need help sticking to any type of eating habit you can find a whole load of useful tips in these articles here and here.

Looking at this list now, it doesn’t appear to be as concise as I had first expected. Still, I hope you found something useful here and it helps you make your life and your body a little (hopefully a lot) healthier.

I love talking about health so I’d love to hear your comments and questions on this post.

Stay healthy and keep dancing.

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Fiona Uyema

Japanese Cookbook Author

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