Healthier Baking for Christmas*

December is notoriously a month of over-indulgence- all those parties, meals out, chocolates, tins of biscuits and homemade treats. Most people find that by the end of the month they’ve packed on a few pounds and feel decidedly sluggish, especially if like me they love to bake and can’t resist filling the house with the sweet and spicy aromas of festive bakes. With that in mind I thought I’d explore a few ideas for healthier baking, mostly simple ingredient swaps to serve as inspiration for myself and also to inspire my fellow baking addicts- and nab your ideas for healthier cakes and biscuits too!
One simple swap you can make is to reduce saturated fats by replacing butter with an ingredient like rapeseed oil. The added bonus of Rapeseed oil is that it has a pretty neutral taste so it won’t detract from your delicious treats.

Obviously baked goods are notoriously laden with sugar and it’s hard to avoid it completely- and at this time of year why would you want it? What you can do though is look for sweeteners that have more nutritional benefits than refined white sugar- honey, apple puree, banana or sugar alternatives such as the SugaVida I previously featured are all good substitutes.

You can improve the nutritional content of cakes and bakes by adding in ingredients such as flaxseeds (also a great alternative to egg in vegan baking) to boost fibre content as well as providing a good source of vitamins and minerals. You won’t necessarily taste the difference but the benefits will be there. Adding plenty of dried fruit and nuts to your recipes, and less chocolate (or dark chocolate) will also help- and with the right blend of spices are just perfect for this time of year.

Using alternatives to standard white flour will also boost the nutritional content of your bakes- buckwheat or spelt flours will increase fibre whilst almond flour will add a protein and vitamin E boost.

Finally when it comes to topping your bakes try switching regular cream or icing for greek or natural yoghurts- you could also use fruit, nuts and spices to decorate with in place of icing, and make open topped mince tarts in place of the all out pastry fest that are traditional mince pies.

I’d love to know what smart-swaps you make for healthier baked goods, both for the run up to Christmas and for the new year when everyone is trying to be good and watch their weight.

end

Review: Oral B Genius 9000 with Pure Smiles

Tooth care is something I was never forced to think about until a couple of years ago. I was lucky enough to escape with no fillings until I was in my late twenties and apart from giving my teeth a good brush twice a day I didn’t stop to consider the toothbrush I chose, or whether my toothpaste was adequate for my needs.

These days it seems like every routine trip to the dentist reveals yet another major piece of work to be done- I’m a pro at grimacing through root canals now and it’s really forced me to stop and think about not only how often I clean my teeth but what tools I use for the job. My teeth have always been a hinderance in my self confidence, they stick out and nothing short of drastic dental surgery can fix that. They are also quite discoloured after years of an eating disorder, and whilst I finally accept I won’t ever have a Hollywood smile I am determined to do the best for what I have left.

I was recently contacted by Pure Smiles who asked if I’d be interested in testing out the Oral B Genius 9000 toothbrush- whilst I might not be able to participate in any cosmetic dentistry procedures, no matter how much I’d like to, trying out a shiny new and very fancy toothbrush is well within my remit!

At over £120 this isn’t a cheap toothbrush and it’s something I’d ordinarily not be able to afford. Having tried it out for over a week now I would definitely say it’s worth it though- it’s the number one dentist recommended toothbrush of the moment and makes my mouth feel cleaner and more cared for than any other I’ve tried.

So, what makes it so special? Well, firstly the round head is designed to remove up to 100% more plaque than a standard toothbrush- I might not have the means to measure this in a scientific manner but my teeth and gums certainly feel like they’ve had a more thorough clean than I could ever manage myself. The brush also gently removes stains, with effects noticeable from day one. I can’t vouch for this particular feature due to my own dental quirks but I don’t find it a hard claim to believe.

This is a multi-mode toothbrush with 6 different functions to ensure your mouth stays in top condition. My favourite feature is the one that alerts you if you’re brushing too hard as this is something I’m definitely guilty of and a habit that can do more harm than good. Unlike many electric toothbrushes this also has a good battery life, around 12 days on a single charge. If that’s wasn’t enough, the brush also comes with a USB travel case meaning you’ll never be caught short, and the whole package just looks and feels…well, sleek, fresh and clean. Everything you could want from a toothbrush and more.

As someone who was once sceptical of buying anything other than a cheap £1 disposable toothbrush and whatever toothpaste was on offer, I’m a convert to investing in a quality cleaning tool. I’ve also given in and starting using a prescription toothpaste and since I upped my game with taking care of my teeth the dentist trips, whilst still revealing ongoing problems have become a little less traumatic. It may not have been poor dental hygiene that caused my problems, but making it the best it can possibly be certainly has helped to reduce them.

Do you have any top tips for squeaky clean teeth?

end

The 6 Secrets To Bringing The Outside In This Winter *

According to the author Florence Williams just 15 minutes outside in nature can make you happier. While it’s easier to picture yourself walking outside and enjoying a gentle breeze in the park at the peak of the summer holidays, you may not feel quite the same way about a stroll in the forest in the middle of winter when it’s blowing a gale. It might be a fantastic occasion to test how waterproof your wellington boots really are, but let’s be honest,even 15 minutes in the great outdoors is not an easy task during the colder months and there’s no guarantee that getting drenched in the rain and slapped by the cold wind will actually make you feel happier about your life. No, you have to admit that while Ms Williams might speak the truth, the theory will have to wait until Spring 2018 to be tested. However are ways and means to cheat the system, if you can’t spend time outside in nature how about letting the outside in? No, that doesn’t mean taking down the wall or losing a few roof tiles! Check out these 6 safe and foolproof tips to spend 15 minutes in nature at home.

(image)

1. Get more plants!
Beautiful plants don’t only belong in the garden, there are plenty of elegant houseplants that can completely change your interior decor. It’s important to remember that when you decide to keep indoor plants you need to pay attention to a variety of features such as how much sunlight, moisture and fresh soil they need. Indeed, while houseplants can revive your interior dead ones don’t quite have the same effect (trust me, I know!) So be sure you know how to maintain them- or pick easy to maintain plants such as a spider plant or a dracaena plant as these are not only easy to manage but they can also clean the air of its toxins.

2. Showcase windows and balconies
Natural sunlight is vital for your health, you’ve probably heard of SAD syndrome that touches people during the colder months of the year. Lack of sunlight can affect your mood and even cause mild cases of winter depression. While this is most common in regions like in the Shetlands or in Norway where daylight becomes extremely scarce in winter it can also happen in urban areas in the main UK regions. It’s important to keep a free access to the sources of sunlight in your home, from keeping your blinds open to choosing the right balustrade system to maximise your balcony. It doesn’t cure SAD, but it reduces its effects significantly!

3. Fresh herbs are a must
You can’t beat a comforting stew in the Winter, whether it’s a rich chicken and tomato stew or an Irish cabbage and potatoes dish. Whatever it is, if you’re thinking of using dried herbs in your dish you’re missing out on the real taste of fresh herbs. It doesn’t take much effort to introduce a fresh herb garden in your kitchen and it can completely change your experience of cooking in winter. When growing your plants indoors light is key so the windowsill in the kitchen is a good place to start- unless it’s just above the heater — in that case it will dry out your plants. Select easy herbs to grow such as basil, coriander or even sage which are beautiful additions to your winter dishes.

4. Bring the shine back to your window panes
When was the last time you cleaned your windows? They may not seem dirty, but small particles accumulate and gradually block out the sunlight. So if your living room looks a little dull and grey it’s time to get your bottle of vinegar and your brown paper out to refresh your window panes. Make a note to wash your window with a mixture of vinegar and warm water to remove dirt and grease at least twice a year.

5. Paint it green
If you can’t bring nature inside your home you can at least imitate it as best you can. Painting your walls in yellow, sky blue or green can add the touch of happiness that you need to make it through the winter. Make sure though to pick soft pastel colours- if you use bright-coloured paint the result might feel a little too aggressive on the eye and have the opposite effect.

6. Eco-friendly craft at home
Maybe you can’t bring all of nature inside but what about little decorative elements? From creating a shoe tray out of pebbles for your muddy boots to using empty seashells in your decor, you can add natural materials to your home easily and elegantly. Pine cones make a great festive decoration when spray painted and dipped in glitter- make the most of the dry days and get collecting!

How are you going to follow the advice of Florence Williams this winter and get your 15 minutes of nature time? We’re doing it at home with houseplants, natural craft and plenty of sunlight. Make your home a nature catalyst to enjoy winter with a smile!

end

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.

end

Why Choose to Delay Your Period?*

That time of the month is near but a manic lifestyle has you juggling many deadlines and commitments that are coming to a head this month. Often having to deal with your period is another problem you could do without. Other reasons for choosing to postpone your period include: going on holiday, attending a special event, or wanting to spend quality time with your partner.

Periods can be minor inconveniences, or they can come with serious health concerns. Health issues range from headaches, cramping, painful periods, heavy bleeding, endometriosis, anaemia, asthma, migraines, epilepsy or mood swings.

Whatever the personal or lifestyle reason being able to delay your period is a welcome relief at times and there are options available for extending your menstrual cycle.

(Photo by Naomi August on Unsplash)

The combined oral contraceptive also known as the “the pill” is most commonly used as a form of birth control. It can also be similarly applied to delay your period. The pill includes oestrogen and a progestogen used to artificially generate the hormone that lines the uterus, so that when your period is due the lining does not fall. The pill comes in several variations which affects how you take the pill. The examples include: monophasic 21-day pills, everyday pills and phasic 21-day pills. Monophasic 21-day and ED pills are similar in consumption method in that you take them on a continuous basis and skip any breaks or dummy pills. The phasic 21-day pills are slightly different because there are different types of pills in each pack containing varying levels of the hormones. This necessitates them to be consumed in the correct order.

The skin patch and the vaginal ring are traditionally used for birth control and period delays much like the pill. The patch itself is an adhesive, small square that is applied to the skin. The contraceptive vaginal ring is a flexible, lightweight device that is inserted into the vagina. Both methods contain the hormones oestrogen and progestogen — also found in the pill — that are released into the blood stream. As these methods do not require a daily dose they can be used more consistently.

Norethisterone is a synthetic hormone used to stop the uterus from bleeding. It is designed to mimic the natural hormone progestogen which maintains the lining of the uterus and falls just before a period starts. Taking norethisterone tablets artificially maintains a high level of progestogen so that a period does not start. The major advantage of these tablets is that they do not need to be taken weeks in advance to come into effect. However, there are risks associated with norethistorene; therefore consult a doctor regarding its suitability for you.

Have you used any of these methods to delay your period? Feel free to share your experiences below.

end