Should we return to the kitchen?*

How many meals per week are you eating away from home? Over the last few decades more and more people have been ordering takeaways as they become easier to access and more affordable. However research published by the John Hopkins School of Public Health has claimed that people who frequently cook meals at home eat healthier and consume fewer calories. Thankfully (I think) for me I live in a very small town with few takeaways available meaning I’ve only caved to temptation perhaps twice in my life. Not going to lie though, I do feel like I’m missing out sometimes, especially when only a piping hot Dominos will do!

Join five-star kitchen splashbacks supplier The Plastic People as they explore just how popular eating out and ordering takeaways has become, as well as why we should consider putting the menus away and instead get back to cooking in our kitchens:

(Christopher Flowers)

Our love for takeaways
Digital takeaway specialists Just Eat previously shed light on how popular takeaways are for UK families when considering research commissioned to celebrate the launch of the 2015 British Takeaway Awards.
According to the study close to half of people aged under 35 years old will serve their families a takeaway meal for a get-together. Reasons for doing so included both parents having to work longer hours as well as trying to fit their children’s extra-curricular activities into the day.
The same piece of research also found that over 25% of survey respondents admit to passing off takeaway meals as their own food when inviting guests round. In this regard more than a half of those who admitted to doing this said that they simply didn’t have enough time to cook.
Just Eat’s Graham Corfield pointed out: “Modern lives are incredibly busy and often both parents work long hours. So increasingly people are looking for ways to be more effective with their time so that they can spend as much of the day as possible with their families and doing the things they love.”

A spotlight on Just Eat
Just Eat has marked it’s place as one of the main companies associated with the takeaway scene of the 21st century — with this particularly evident when looking at the firm’s 2016 full year results.
Founded in 2001, Just Eat completed last year with 17.6 million active customers — up 31% from the 13.4 million active customers in 2015 — who were connected to more than 68,500 restaurant partners. This huge group of customers also placed 136.4 million orders through Just Eat in 2016 which works out a 4.3 orders per second and is a considerable rise from the 96.2 million orders placed through the service in 2015.
The UK is Just Eat’s largest market, with the market for delivered takeaway food for this country expanding from £5.5 billion in 2015 to £6.1 billion last year and Just Eat finishing 2016 with 9.2 million active UK customers.

The case for home cooking
A study carried out by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has suggested that people should reconsider their eating habits going forward.
This is because after analysing data from the 2007/10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey which involved over 9,000 participants aged 20 years old and over the researchers concluded that those who frequently cook meals at home eat more healthily and consume fewer calories than those who cook less. This conclusion was reached as…

48 per cent of participants cooked dinner between six and seven times a week and consumed 2,164 calories, 81 grams of fat and 119 grams of sugar on an average day.

Eight per cent of participants cooked dinner once or less a week and consumed 2,301 calories, 84 grams of fat and 135 grams of sugar on an average day.

Julia A. Wolfson, MPP, a CLF-Lerner Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and the study’s lead author pointed out: “When people cook most of their meals at home they consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar and less fat than those who cook less or not at all – even if they are not trying to lose weight.”
There was also a suggestion from the research that those who cooked at home six to seven nights a week also consumed fewer calories whenever they did decide to spend a night away from the kitchen and eating out instead.

Wolfson added: “The evidence shows people who cook at home eat a healthier diet. Moving forward it’s important to educate the public about the benefits of cooking at home, identify strategies that encourage and enable more cooking at home, and help everyone, regardless of how much they cook make healthier choices when eating out.”

Lucky for me both my boyfriend and I love to cook and find greater satisfaction in preparing something ourselves than order in, we’re also trying to save money so limit eating out to a couple of times a month no matter how great the temptation. I can see where the appeal lies though and personally I would like to see healthier takeaway options available (Pizza Hut for example don’t offer their delicious flat bread pizzas as a takeaway option) and better awareness/labelling of nutritional information to help people make informed choices.

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July’s Summer Degustabox

I feel like a broken record saying this- but where has the month gone? It seems like only a few days ago I was last sitting down to write my June Degustabox review and yet here we are again with July’s box- this time on a Summer theme.

As with last month I’ve done my absolute best to try everything in the box, but time constraints and wanting to get a post up in a fairly prompt manner means that there are a couple of things I’m yet to sample. I’ll pop up some mini reviews of these on social media when I do try them for anyone who is as curious as I currently am.

For those who don’t yet know, Degustabox* is a monthly food subscription box that gives you the chance to try new and exciting products on the market whilst providing amazing value for money.

First up, some of the drinks included in this month’s box. I was really excited to see the Blossom Hill Spritz in Lemon and Elderflower as to me that is the ultimate Summer flavour combination. This is designed to be a fresh and fruity twist on wine and it really is. Perfect with ice and a slice!. There were also some soft drinks included from Thor- I don’t have the product information on these but I’m sure I recognise them from previous boxes and they’ve been well received.
Regular readers will know I tend to skip over the drinks part of the box as I’m not really a soft drinks or juices person but even I couldn’t resist trying some of this Mango and Passionfruit juice drink from Crafted. Again, a complete winner of flavour combinations and there is no added sugar or sweetener in the drinks. A serving of this counts as one of your five a day and it’s a great soft drink to break out at a BBQ.
There was a voucher in this month’s box for a big tub kids yoghurt from The Collective. I’m yet to find this available locally (small town life) but I hope I do as the banana and vanilla flavour is right up my street. There just aren’t enough banana flavour yoghurts on the market so I can’t wait to try this one.
The product of the month was these Rowntree’s Randoms 30% less sugar sweets which I have tried before. They pretty much taste just like the sweets we know and love but contain less sugar as well as no artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners. These are pretty good sweets- sugar addicted boyfriend approved!
One of my favourite things about Summer eating is putting together snacky plates of crackers, olives and hummus. These new Ryvita thins in three cheese haven’t been opened yet but look very appealing based on the packaging and perfect as part of a picnic or snack platter. The olives from Oloves were one of the first things to be eaten from this month’s box. I love olives and these snack pouches are just so handy! Seasoned with chilli, garlic and oregano they are a perfectly portable healthy snack.
These are the products I’m yet to try- Maille Dijon Original which apparently makes a good accompaniment to steak. I’m not a fan of mustard or steak so will pass this on to someone to try out, but it does look good! I’ve had the merchant gourmet simply cook red and white quinoa before so can vouch for this! It’s ready to eat but can be heated as well and makes a great base for a summer salad, or a side dish as an alternative to rice. We use Frylight a lot in this house as I have an aversion to the texture of actual oils so I’m looking forward to trying this new Avocado variety. You can use this for pan frying, roasting, stir fries etc and to me it’s a store cupboard staple.
I love Weetabix and I love their new additions range. Coconut and raisin is a really lovely, summery flavour combination that I’ve been enjoying as both breakfast and as a snack. Served with ice cold milk (but not too much, they can’t be too soggy!) I highly recommend these.
On a month by month basis the box costs £12.99 (with a discount for longer subscriptions) but the contents are generally worth far more than this.
If you’re persuaded to give Degustabox a go (and really, you should) you can claim a brilliant £7.00 off of your first box (making it just £5.99!) by entering the code 6HZJ8 at the checkout. It’s been a pleasure to work with the brand regularly over the last couple of years and it’s without a doubt something that I will continue to purchase long after our partnership ends. I love the monthly surprise and excitement as well as the chance to discover products I’d otherwise pass up on the supermarket shelves.
Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products and what you thought of them.

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Recovery Update: Smashing Goals*

It’s been a while since I did an update on my journey through anorexia recovery and given that things are going well I thought it was an opportune time.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of progress…I don’t know how, or what has suddenly changed inside my head but the goals that once seemed insurmountable are now well within my grasp.

The whole way through this I’ve had goals in my mind that I’ve wanted to achieve. To other people they might seem tiny, normal, everyday things that you wouldn’t even think twice about. To me and the way my illness manifests itself though they are huge and at times felt like they might never be tackled.

I’ve invested in a “positive mental attitude” approach to all meals and snacks. Instead of putting up a fight and resisting it I’ve decided to try and get excited and it’s such a liberating feeling. Looking forward to trying something new and not dreading it? How novel! It’s made normal chores like the food shop so much easier (and quicker) and I’m now regularly enjoying things like pizza, something that I love but would never had admitted to even a few weeks ago.

I’m also letting go of rules and ideals about what I eat. Meat is becoming a bigger part of my diet as the weeks go on- vegetarianism has always been an excuse for me up until recently I tied myself up in knots about whether I was avoiding meat for proper, founded reasons or if I was just looking for an excuse to exclude a food group. I’m not the biggest meat eater in the world and never have been but allowing myself chicken, pork, turkey, ham (and more) again has opened up so many new avenues for me and I’m excited to expand my culinary horizons more.

One other goal I had was to eat something I had baked myself. We all know that I love to bake but up until now it’s only ever been for other people. I decided to change that recently, I eased myself back in by making something healthy- carrot and pineapple muffins which were packed full of fresh ingredients, nuts and healthy oils and enjoyed them, both the making and the eating process.

Of course it’s not all sunshine and rainbows and the struggles are still very much there on a daily basis, especially around weight gain (why does it always feel so fast and so noticeable?) and often the amount of food I eat/what percentage is “good” food vs. “bad” food (although I don’t really believe there is any such definition) and there are many things I want to be doing right now that I just can’t and that frustrates me no end. But I’m more positive and happier than I’ve been in a good couple of years- both mentally and physically. I’ve made more progress in the last three months, co-incidentally since I met my boyfriend, than I made in the last twelve months put together. I’m on an intense but constructive course of therapy and I finally believe that a) I am capable of getting better and b) that for once I’ll be able to sustain good health when I get there.

I’m 30 years old. I can’t keep going through the up and down rollercoaster of recovery and relapse. I for once have things I want to achieve in life, and believe I can achieve. I’m developing my self worth and I’m bloody excited for the future.

I’ll pop in more sporadic updates as the journey progresses, it just felt like the right time to pour all of these thoughts out in to this very public space. All along my blog has been a sort of record of achievement and if nobody minds then I’d quite like to keep it that way.

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The June 2017 (BBQ) Degustabox

I honestly don’t know where time is going lately. Life has become incredibly busy and whilst I usually try to do a thorough review of each Degustabox* this month it’s more of an over-view and summary as I’ve literally run out of time to try everything included in the box!

This month the box had a BBQ theme, perfectly fitting for June even if it is currently pouring with rain and really quite chilly. I’m not 100% sure how everything in this box fits in with the theme to be honest but as ever there was a good selection and I’ll never not enjoy this monthly delivery.

So first up is an interesting sounding Brazilian chilli and coconut quick cook sauce from Capsicana which retails at £1.99. This is one of the products that I haven’t had a chance to try yet but the flavour combination sounds delicious and I’m looking forward to trying this out with chicken, peppers and onions as the brand suggests.
As is probably common knowledge by now I’m not a soft drinks girl but these energy juices from ENRJ do look appealing. The flavours sound great- Mango & Passionfruit and Apple & Berries. I’m definitely going to give these a go ASAP- at £1.75 they aren’t cheap but made from real ingredients (nothing artificial), no added sugar, under 100 calories per bottom and one of your five a day I think they’ll make a great occasional splurge.
Haribo! Here’s a product I immediately found time to try! These Summer Frenzy editions of classic favourites Starmix and Tangfastics are both delicious in my eyes. The Tangfastics have the edge for me with their ice cream flavours, the Starmix are berry flavoured which are also good but I’m a sucker for the sour. RRP £1 per pack.
Another product I haven’t tried is these light bites which I’ve seen for sale in my local Superdrug. I’ve been hesitant to try these because these are clearly marketed as a diet product but they do sound tempting and I think I will tuck in soon (solution- eat twice as many!) The mango and vanilla yoghurt fruit chips sound great, and at 46 calories per bag are great for anyone watching their weight. The superfood fruit bar is packed with goji berries, chia seeds, strawberries, blueberries and pumpkin seeds- all for under 100 calories. The fruit chips cost £1.49 per bag and the bar is £1.25. Expensive, but great for dieters needing convenience.
This month’s product of the month is these Original O’s savoury cumin and sesame nibbles. These are ridiculously addictive, I didn’t think I liked cumin until I tried these. These are great for sharing, if you can bring yourself to…at £2.99 probably best reserved for special occasions only but worth the splurge.
Cider is a staple at any summer BBQ around these parts so these Westons Ciders are bound to go down a treat. Here we have Rosie’s Pig flat tyre- a cloudy cider with rhubarb and Rosie’s Pig handbrake is a cloudy cider with damson. I haven’t tried these, I’m not a cider fan at all- although as soon as someone cracks open the Rhubarb one I’m sneaking a swig.
Schwartz packets are a staple in our cupboards and these new Authentic American Flavours are very exciting to me. There are five products in the range and here we have BBQ pulled chicken and Spicy Buffalo Wings. I haven’t had time to make them yet but as soon as the weather improves enough to get the grill out I’m there.
Eisberg alcohol free wine has popped up a few times in Degustabox and always goes down well at gatherings for the designated drivers and dieters. Made in the same way as your favourite wine but minus the alcohol this has only 28 calories per 125ml glass and is really quite excellent served with ice.

Berrywhite Organic Drinks have also turned up in Degustabox before and here we have an organic lemon and lime variant. Another expensive beverage at £1.39 each but 10% of the profit goes to the Berrywhite Foundation and they have no added sugar or artificial ingredients AND contain one of your five a day (oh, and it tastes really rather good!)

I’m not sure what granola has to do with BBQs but I am a fiend for granola so I was excited to see this in the box until I realised it has peanuts in which I can’t eat. Still, it sounds delicious and I’ve passed this on to my equally addicted Grandfather- I’m awaiting his verdict and will report back.
I’m also not sure what shortbread has to do with BBQ but who doesn’t love a biscuit? I’m a long term fan of Walkers shortbread and these Scottie Dogs are adorable- almost too good to eat. I could eat these all day every day if nutrition wasn’t a concern…shortbread fans seek these out!
For those who don’t know Degustabox is a monthly subscription box filled with 10-15 food/drink products, most of which are brand new to the market so it’s a great way to try things out. On a month by month basis the box costs £12.99 (with a discount for longer subscriptions) but the contents are generally worth far more than this.
If you’re persuaded to give Degustabox a go (and really, you should) you can claim a brilliant £7.00 off of your first box (making it just £5.99!) by entering the code 6HZJ8 at the checkout. It’s been a pleasure to work with the brand regularly over the last couple of years and it’s without a doubt something that I will continue to purchase long after our partnership ends. I love the monthly surprise and excitement as well as the chance to discover products I’d otherwise pass up on the supermarket shelves.
Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products and what you thought of them.

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Snacking with Dr Zak

I might not be your typical gym-going, exercise mad protein filled snack consumer but I am a serial grazer and on a mission to pack as much protein in to my diet as possible right now to help me re-build some strength. I also have a notorious sweet tooth and do have to keep an eye on how much sugar I let myself inhale in lieu of healthier options (I was that child who filled their boots on Haribo then couldn’t manage their dinner!). Therefore I was very interested when I got an e-mail from Dr Zak’s about their new range of high protein, low sugar cookies which boast an impressive 15g of protein per 60g cookie whilst keeping sugar content minimal. They very kindly sent over the range of cookies for me to try as well as some high protein clusters and I thought I’d pop up some thoughts here in case anyone else is in the same boat- or is in need of something to munch post workout.
All products c/o Dr Zak’s for blog consideration.
Kicking off with the protein clusters which I found made the perfect little snack to pack in my bag for work. These come in three flavours- chipotle chilli, fruit & yoghurt and chocolate. These 30g packs contain up to 12g of protein, are free from palm oil, made with high quality pea protein isolate and have under 130 calories per bag.

I’ll start off by saying the fruit & yoghurt variety wasn’t my cup of tea. They weren’t bad but did have that distinct “protein” taste about them and I had expected them to be much sweeter. I happily ate the pack and they certainly made for a filling snack for something so small but I wouldn’t go out of my way to have these again.

The chipotle and chocolate fared better. The chocolate were my favourite for sure, a good strong flavour and less after taste. The chipotle were also pretty good although I had hoped for a bit more heat. Again the stronger flavour of these took away the protein taste and I would pick up both of these flavours again if I saw them for sale.

The cookies also come in three flavours- salted caramel, chocolate chip and triple chocolate. These are made with high quality milk proteins and have a soft bake texture which reminded me more of a cake than a cookie. Again these are free from palm oil and contain no more than 3% of your daily sugar allowance. The 60g cookies are dense and filling but are fairly low calorie for a protein filled snack- each contains less than 220 calories for the whole cookie.

My favourite flavour was the salted caramel, hands down. This surprised me as I’m not usually a fan of this flavour at all but here it was a winner. The chocolate chip (sugar free) was a close second though and not far behind was the triple chocolate.

In short, I really enjoyed these. I gave some to my boyfriend to try and he wasn’t convinced at first but later said this is because he went in to it expecting a typical cookie- I mentioned before these have a more cake like texture and won’t compare to say, a cookie from Millie’s cookies or a bakery but in their own right they are really very good.

There are a whole host of items from Dr Zak’s I’d like to try- the peanut spread with it’s range of flavours looks especially intriguing!

Check out the website to find out your nearest stockists and if you are already familiar with the brand then please tell me which products I should be looking to try next!

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