Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Eating healthy whilst dining out

One of the biggest struggles I've had when losing weight is trying to eat out without it affecting my diet. I would previously pick the juiciest (veggie) burger, greasiest pizza or most carb ridden choice of pasta with an obligatory side of fries when I went out, thinking it was a treat, but for someone who usually eats out at least twice a week I really had to be start being more careful.

Eating out and having free reign over the menu is great for a treat or a hard-earned cheat day, but a casual lunch date with your friends doesn't have to ruin the hard work you've put in at the gym that morning, and similarly your hard efforts at the gym shouldn't mean harming your social life by cancelling lunch dates.

I'm still working on this myself, but I'm getting better and I've recently learned that restaurant salads, whilst sounding boring, are usually THE BOMB. Seriously, so good. Here are my tips on eating healthy whist dining out:

When it comes to eating out, it really is a test on your willpower. The 2 course lunch menu might only be £9.95, but if you were at home would you ever dream of cooking yourself a two course lunch? Probably not. Most restaurants also have a tempting selection of sides to choose from but unless your friends are going to be sharing, then your main meal will probably be enough - if you can even manage to finish that! If you're like me and can eat and eat and eat, it's important to pay attention to how you're feeling - yes, you're full and no, you don't need to clear the plate even though there's only a small amount left!

Personally I find the biggest challenge of eating out to be that my eyes are bigger than my belly. Everything must have a side of fries, and what's that... jalepeno dippers? I'll have those too. And then my meal arrives, with the sides and I eat until my clothes feel like they're about to burst, and usually waste half of the food anyway. I've become quite good at choosing the healthy options from the menu (and I really don't miss the fries), so here are some of my recommendations for what to choose and what to avoid.

VEGETARIANS - Before I started eating fish, it would drive me crazy that most restaurants would give vegetarians the choice of pasta (and I'll bet it will be something outrageous like four cheese macaroni!), pizza or wraps/fajitas.

My usual choice would be some sort of vegetable wraps (watch out for ones heavily laden with cheese), exchanging the fries for a crisp side salad which might not be offered on the menu but is never a problem in any restaurant I've visited. If you're trying to restrict your carbs or really keep the calories low then eating the contents of the wrap and leaving the wrap itself works well.

FISH LOVERS - Scanning the menu for Salmon is now the first thing I do when I get to a restaurant. Usually served with potatoes and vegetables salmon is an excellent healthy choice, which still feels like a treat.

When dining out I usually find that fish dishes are amongst the healthiest on the menu, usually giving a good balance of protein and carbs whilst being low fat. Watch out for creamy/cheesy sauces, and obviously steer clear of fish and chips no matter how good that beer batter might sound! Fish is usually a winner for me.

CARNIVORES - Not eating meat, I'm maybe not the best person to be making recommendations for meat dishes as I don't even give as much of a glance towards that section of the menu. My healthy friends usually opt for a steak with steamed vegetables, or a big hunk of chicken, trying to avoid creamy sauces and things fried in batter.

I usually eat out at chain restaurants, dropping in for a quick lunch and a catch up with friends. Whilst you'll find the menus in a lot of chains are very burger-heavy, there are some with brilliant lighter choices.

PIZZA EXPRESS - Top of my list is Pizza Express, with their Legerra menu (I reviewed it here) which features pizzas each coming in at under 500 calories and delicious salads for under 300. Maybe not the best source of protein but with plenty of greenery on their pizzas and some healthy topping choices Pizza Express gives the perfect 'feels bad but actually isn't' choice for dining out.

NANDOS - For meat eaters, Nandos is a great restaurant to load up on protein with all that chicken - just be sure to stay clear of carb and calorie laden burgers and wraps in favour of pita or simply meat on the bone, and to always eat your vegetables. Macho peas are awesome! Nandos do a pretty special range of salads too, although you might want to ask them to go easy on the dressings from experience!

PREZZO - Whether I'm being healthy or having a cheat day, Prezzo is one of my favourite chains to visit! Again, with it's own range of light flatbread pizzas ranging between 400-600 calories it's easy not to go overboard. Pastas are available as a light option too, being served up as a small portion with a bowl of salad on the side. Their Salmon Niciose (pictured above) is a favourite of mine!

Obviously eating out is not as good as a home cooked meal (pizza is still pizza at the end of the day) so I do like to visit smaller, lesser known local restaurants, quite often vegetarian or vegan places. Stereo in Glasgow is a favourite of mine, with healthy tapas choices, homemade soups, houmus and salads to die for.

With all that being said, sometimes there won't be an ideal healthy choice that fits in your macros and doesn't come close to the fine line between acceptable and cheat meal so it's important to plan around dining out.

If you're heading out for lunch then have a light breakfast and dinner that day. Often for bigger, more elaborate meals (three course dinners with limited set menus and drinks, I'm looking at you!) I'll be extra good during the rest of the week, keeping my meals as clean and healthy as possible to make up for that indulgent meal. I also have a little rule that I try to stick to where I don't get to go to a restaurant unless I've been to the gym that day, just for extra measure!

What are your top tips for eating out without wrecking your diet?


Saturday, 6 September 2014

Pinterest food finds: Keeping cool

With Summer over and the colder weather about to set in across the UK, I've been making the most of being able to enjoy all things ice cold, from ice lollies and ice cream to slushies, smoothies and frozen yogurt before mugs of hot drinks (hopefully not topped with too much marshmallows and cream!) take their place.

Here are some of my favourite finds, none of which will ruin the diet!

Links to: pinterest | recipe/image source

The colour of this frozen yogurt recipe has 'Summer' written all over it! It looks so refreshing and with only four simple ingredients (strawberries, honey, yogurt and lemon juice) it's healthy too. I'd probably try it with Total Greek Yogurt which has a higher protein content than normal yogurt and contains no added sugar!

Links to: pinterest | recipe/image source

It says in the recipe that these can be made with juice instead of vodka, but with a party just around I've been on the hunt for some delicious cocktail ideas and this frozen watermelon recipe ticks every box! It contains watermelon and banana, so that makes it healthy - right?

Links to: pinterest | recipe/image source

Buying a cute little popsicle making set has been on my to-do list for a while now but I think this recipe for capuccino lollies has made it a priority and I can see these babies being whipped up this week. I have a serious coffee addiction but making iced coffee at home takes effort so these seem perfect.

Links to: pinterest | recipe/image source

Chocolate, banana and peanut butter: the best food combo in the world. This smoothie might look like it would cancel out your efforts at the gym but the addition of peanut butter and greek yogurt makes it a treat loaded with protein (28 grams of the stuff - WOW!) and healthy fats.


Tuesday, 1 July 2014

My top pick of healthy snack bars

BOUNCE ENERGY BALLS (click to buy)
Bounce Balls are a relatively new product and come in a bitebized ball with 6 different flavours to choose from. Each ball is really high in lots of nutrients - not just protein - whether it's vitamin E, magnesium or fibre and contains naturally occurring ingredients and super foods such as carob, cacao nibs and spirulina to name a few.

Each flavour ranges between 3g and 10g of protein, around 160-200 calories and contains no trans fat. They're all gluten free, too. I love these and can't get enough of the Coconut & Macadamia flavour which tastes like a cross between cake and coconut macaroon - so satisfying as a post-work out snack!

QUEST BARS (click to buy)
Oh my. I have been dying to get my hands on some Quest Bars for a long time, and was so happy to find that a local store (Sports Food in Glasgow, for those locally) stocked them as my usual online shop, Protein Pix and Mix was out of stock.

Quest Bars feel like the ultimate treat, especially when heated up in the oven until they're warm and cookie-like. At around 170 calories each, with only 4g of carbs and a whopping 20g of protein I seriously wish these were more readily available in the UK as they'd be great to grab to re-fuel on the go! The flavours are insanely good too with Peanut Butter Supreme (oh come on, I couldn't not love the PB one!), Strawberry Cheesecake and Cookies & Cream being my favourites.

NAKD BARS (click to buy)
Similar to quest bars, but without the hefty USA import price tag these Nakd Bars make a good cookie/cake substitute when heated. The flavours are not as exciting, and they don't pack in nearly as much protein but they taste great nonetheless.

I find that I can't eat them too often as its easy to get sickened of the chewy texture and that they're not quite sweet enough for me sometimes but being available in most supermarkets and even some corner shops, these are usually my snack of choice if I'm out and about!

Being a big fan of their all natural nut butters, it's no surprise that these snack bars from Meridian are one of my favourites. I'm not such a big fan of their Almond Butter bar (it doesn't have much taste, I find) but the Peanut Butter bar blows my mind every time I eat it. Seriously, so tasty!

At under 200 calories and 8g of protein these don't give as much protein as other bars but they make my sweet toothe day every time I have one and they keep me feeling full between meals.


Sunday, 29 June 2014

One year progress and an update

(I guess I really do have a favourite pair of shoes....)

It’s been two months since I last posted a progress update and despite only losing 2 or 3 pounds in this space of time I feel like I’ve made quite a lot of progress in other ways. It's also been 1 year since I started my weightloss journey and I'm almost 3 stone lighter, a hell of a lot fitter and most importantly, so much happier.

I mentioned in my last post that my focus has to change from weight after noticing that my weightloss was slowing down as I got slimmer and this is something I feel I’m doing well with. It’s not easy moving away from judging everything in numbers when you’ve spent a year weighing yourself weekly and noting it down, right down to the exact half lb. I found it particularly hard on a Sunday night when I’d think about what the scales would read on my usual Monday morning weigh in so I’ve stopped weighing myself weekly and will probably only do it periodically from now on.

I’ve changed the way I work out too, which has resulted in some brilliant progress in my body shape and muscle definition which in turn is making me appreciate my progress without linking it to the numbers. Rather than doing mostly cardio I’ve stepped away from my beloved hour long sessions on the spin bike and rowing marathons and do maybe 20-30 minutes HIIT on spin bike or Versa Climber (probably my favourite piece of cardio equipment, ever!) followed by around 40 minutes of circuits using weights. I get so much enjoyment out of planning a circuit of 4 or 5 exercises and then taking myself to the gym to do it. I’ve built up a collection of self-made circuits to work different parts of my body and these circuits, combined with breaking my workouts down and working individual muscle groups on each session (why didn’t I do this sooner?) has really made a difference.

My arms are much more leaner and my biceps are definitely coming through. Triceps are my big area of focus just now as although they’ve definitely firmed up a lot I was once the queen of bingo wings and have a lot of progress left to make. My stomach is not quite flat but I’m getting closer week by week and being the type of girl who holds all of her extra weight in that area, this makes me happy! My legs are getting a bit skinny for my liking, but with my current obsession with big quads I’m sure this will change too!

Overall I’m really happy and proud of my progress. I feel like I’ve almost got to the end of my weightloss journey and now it’s all about building muscle and getting a bit of definition.

I'd love to know how you're all getting on with your weightless and exercise goals so please share your progress in my comments! :)


Friday, 27 June 2014

Raw chocolate from iQ Chocolate


A few weeks ago I went to the Ideal Home Show in Glasgow and somehow, instead of walking out with bags of homeware, I brought home a bag full of chocolate. There's no hiding the fact that I'm a big chocolate fan, but with eating healthily I've been trying to limit myself to a few squares of high percentage dark chocolate per week. However this little beauty, brought to you by Scottish company iQ Superfood Chocolate goes one step further as it's raw chocolate.

Cocoa beans are actually jam packed full of nutrients, but the usual chocolate making process heats the beans to such high temperatures that any trace of nutrients is lost by the time it reaches our mouth. Raw chocolate uses a much gentler process meaning that all that potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron (who knew chocolate was so good for you, eh?) found in the beans can be absorbed by your body.

Not only this, but iQ Chocolate use rare cocoa beans from the Rio Negro Valley. Now I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on cocoa, but this chocolate is definitely the nicest I've ate (if we're taking Kinder Buenos out of the equation, anyway...) and it definitely tastes high quality, even compared to brands such as Green & Blacks.

I've tried the Plush Peppermint flavour which is like a fresher, mintier After Eight without the cream filling and Espresso Kick which definitely gave ma a kick and has become my favourite espresso chocolate to date - and I've tried a lot. You can tell the flavours added to the cocoa are fresh ingredients and not artificial flavourings. The espresso chocolate tastes almost as though you're eating actual coffee beans.

I'll definitely be picking up some more bars to try. At £2.99 they do seem a little expensive but just 1 block is enough to satisfy my super sweet tooth so I've been getting 4 servings from each bar. They're also only 197 calories for the entire bar too, so this is definitely a guilt-free treat!

Have you tried raw chocolate yet?