Gaining Weight Healthily

Last week I wrote about the pressures to lose weight. This may be for health reasons or simply to conform to society’s expectations when it comes to our physical attributes. But whilst most people are trying to lose weight, some are struggling to gain or even maintain a stable weight. The temptation may be to go for Calorie dense biscuits, chocolate or crisps but this is not going to do anything positive for your  blood sugar or cholesterol levels.

Like losing weight, the best approach is to do it gradually; allow your body time to adjust and learn to appreciate real food. Just as I would not advise starving yourself to lose weight, forcing yourself to eat more than you want to can make weight gain a difficult and unpleasant battle.

The key is to eat little and often whilst choosing calorie and nutrient dense foods (avoid diet, low fat or ‘light’ foods). This way you don’t have to go for huge portions that fill you up, making your plan backfire. I would recommend 3 meals and 3 snacks a day; regularity is vital.

Here are tips to help you along the way:

Whole milk

I am a huge fan of dairy because it provides so much more than Calcium. Milk for example is also a great source of protein, Vitamin B12 and Iodine, all of which we need to stay healthy. Swapping your usual semi-skimmed (2% fat) or skimmed milk (0.1% fat)  for whole milk (4% fat) in your breakfast cereal, porridge or daytime drinks is a very easy way to boost your Calorie intake. Adding a warm milky drink at bed time can also help relax you before bed and enable better sleep.

Cheese

Like milk, cheese is also a great way to boost your Calcium and protein intake. It’s energy dense too so adding some to pasta, having with crackers or fruit or going back to good old fashioned cheese on toast is a tasty way to top up your energy intake.

Avocados

It’s really important we include heart-friendly, healthy fats in our diet and watch the levels of saturated fats. Avocados are rich in ‘good’ polyunsaturated fats (the same type we find in olive oil) as well as Potassium (even more than bananas!), fibre and loads of antioxidants. Avocados provide around 160 Calories per 100g and are hugely versatile; you can do so much more with them than turn them into guacamole! Make smoothies, spread them on toast, add to pasta and salads – here are some new fabulous recipes from BBC Good Food.

Olive oil

One of the reasons the Mediterranean diet is considered so healthy is the use of olive oil. Associated with a longer life expectancy and lower risks of high blood pressure and stroke, it just goes to show not all fats are ‘bad’. 1 tablespoon provides around 12o Calories and including 2-3 tablespoons in our daily diet has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

Nuts

Nuts are amazing little power houses; full of protein, fibre, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Here’s a previous blog that will fill you in on all their nutty goodness! So why not make your own trail mix by adding your favourite nuts seeds and dried fruits together in a Tupperware container – try a mix of cashew nuts, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, golden raisins and dried pineapple. And we can’t forget peanut butter! In fact there are loads of nut butters (almond, cashew and walnut for example) that you can add to smoothies and all sorts of savoury dishes as well as spread it on toast or as I do, eat it straight out of the jar 😉

So I will leave you with a delicious nutritious energy bar recipe, made with oats nuts and dried fruit by Emily Angle. These are so much more nutritious than many of the commercial bars available.

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Ingredients

  • 120g/4oz rolled jumbo oats
  • 30g/1oz unsweetened puffed rice (not crisped rice cereal)
  • 75g/2½oz toasted flaked almonds
  • 25g/1oz mixed seeds
  • 130g/4½oz stoned dates, chopped
  • 50g/1¾oz dark chocolate chips (optional)
  • 40g/1½oz raisins or dried berries of your choice
  • 100g/3½oz crunchy peanut butter
  • 90g/3¼oz honey

Method

  1. Line a 23cm/9in square tin with baking paper.

  2. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4.

  3. Spread the oats out onto a baking tray and bake them for about 10 minutes until they smell nice and toasty. Set aside to cool. (You can skip this step, but it makes the bars crispier.)

  4. Mix together the toasted oats, puffed rice, almonds, seeds, chopped dates, chocolate chips, and raisins in a large bowl.

  5. Melt the peanut butter and honey together in a small saucepan over a gentle heat. Stir until the mixture is smooth and thoroughly combined. While still warm, stir the peanut butter and honey into the oat mixture (you may need to get your hands in there) to completely coat all the oats, nuts and fruit.

  6. Tip the mixture into the lined tin and press firmly to make an even layer. Damp hands make this less sticky work. Place the tin into the freezer for 20 minutes to firm up before cutting into 15 bars. Wrap each bar in cling film to keep them fresh, and they’re ready to pop into a your bag.

Recipe Tips

You can customise these with your own blend of nut butters, dried fruits or seeds. Toasting the seeds, nuts and oats will add a stronger nuttier flavour.

If you have a nutritious and energy boosting recipe you’d like to share below, please do!

🙂

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Top Tips for Cheap Eats

I find it really annoying the supermarkets are still trying to get rid of all the leftover treats and nibbles before they use-by date. WE DON’T WANT ANY MORE! WE WANT HEALTHY FOOD (well I do!) I want BOGOF’s on fruit and veg, not 36 packets of crisps! Why is it always so expensive?! Having said that, I guess we shouldn’t worry why healthy food is costly, but why processed food is so cheap!

January is also one of those stressful months when our bank account seems to empty before we get to payday . So here are my TOP 8 TIPS that will help us save a few pennies and get everyone one on-board the boat to healthiness without going into the red or stretching our waistline.

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Eat at home!

Although the cost of an average pub meal has gone down, we are spending more than ever before on eating out. Yes it’s great when you can’t be bothered but not so great for the piggy bank. Added to this, restaurant meals are often more calorific and we eat 20%-40% more calories when we eat out compared with eating at home! So plan some tasty dinners the whole family will enjoy and the bank will thank you for.

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Plan

This may sound dull but can make a big difference. Do a menu plan for the week and then write a shopping list. This way you are more likely to just buy what you need and you can also plan in the use of leftovers. Plus you can ensure you eat a range of foods over the week so get your quota of fish, lean meat, rice, pasta, potatoes and different vegetables etc.

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Shop around!

I am a serious bargain hunter and refuse to pay for overpriced food. The battles going on between supermarket continue but seem to be doing us a huge favour when it comes to driving prices down. Economy ranges have grown and the likes of Aldi’s Super 6 offers on fruit and veg are fantastic! 59p for a pineapple or bag of kale sounds great to me.

Also by going shopping an hour or so before they close, especially before a bank holiday, supermarkets have to get rid of perishable produce so practically give it away 🙂

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Don’t go shopping with the Cookie Monster!

Don’t ever EVER go shopping when you are hungry. This is a BIG MISTAKE!  You lose all sense of rationale and become an impulsive shopper – you’ll only end up throwing loads of junk in the trolley (or eating half of it on the way round) and it will only be when you get hoe you realise there is actually nothing proper to eat! Unplanned spending can mean a shock at the checkout!

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Go seasonal!

Seasonal veg is often cheaper. Check out my last blog here to read more about the health benefits of seasonal food.

Having said this, you don’t have to stick to fresh – there really is not much difference in the vitamin and mineral content of fresh, frozen or tinned produce so go with what suits your budget and storage space.

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Bulk it up (with beans)!

Protein, especially meat is expensive so bulk out your meals with nutritious beans and vegetables that will make your dinner tasty and satisfying.  Plus your meals will go further. Add chickpeas, kidney beans, cannelini, borlotti, haricot beans or lentils – in tins are fine and really cheap.  All these are high in protein so a great alternative to meat, even if you don’t want to be a vegetarian.

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Cook slowly

Slow cooking is a great way to use cheap cuts of meat and make them into a mouthwatering meal.  Stewing, braising steak or oxtail for example are very affordable and chuck in a load of veggies or beans as above and you’ll be able to feed the 5,000!  Better still, you can set your dinner off before you go to bed / work, it will do it’s magic and dinner will be ready when you need it.

This is also a no hassle way to batch cook – portion up the meal / leftovers into freezable containers and you’ll always have a fall back plan so you’re less likely to pick up the phone and get a take-away or nip out cos you haven’t got the time / energy.

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Get creative

Give yourself rules when the cupboards get low at the end of the week. See it as a challenge to rustle up something edible for tea with just a few ingredients – a bit like ‘Ready Steady Cook’ if you have ever watched that. I’ve done this at home with my husband. It suits our competitive natures and we have had a lot of fun. I think only once (when my husband cooked) it was inedible so don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

I’d love to know if you think any of these will be useful for you 🙂