Paleo: 12 Weeks To Change Your Life by Rebecca Field

I have a cupboard full of recipe books and a quick flick through will reveal exactly which ones are the tried and tested favourites (well-thumbed, slightly stained pages)! I was interested then, to be offered an e-recipe book to try out. I do often search for recipes online, usually when I have a mish-mash of ingredients and I have no idea how to put them together to form an actual meal! This usually means a hurriedly scribbled list and some sketchy instructions on a scrap of paper, so I wasn’t sure how well I’d get on with an e-book; I enjoy sitting on the sofa with a ‘real’ book, marking pages that catch my eye.

We do have an iPad in the house, so this turns out to be the best platform for me, propped against the chopping boards, wedged behind the butter dish! The book is well-written and nicely laid out, with the usual lists of ‘store cupboard’ essentials, a good section on planning ahead, some words about the importance of exercise (of course!), all interspersed with case studies to inspire you to have a go (and keep going).

Cover

Cover

This is more than a recipe book. You will find sections on motivation, stress-reduction, the importance of sleep, ‘bad days’, nutrients, hunger, so basically a holistic approach to making changes to your diet (as it should be!). After reading the introduction, finding out what’s in and what’s out, working out a plan of action and thinking about incorporating exercise, you are presented with some helpful weekly meal plans. I find it so much easier to stick to a plan if I’m told exactly what to do! In an ideal world, we would, at this point, do a weekly shop based on these plans and make it all the more achievable to stay focused. Although there are foods that you have to avoid, there is a very positive focus on eating a nutrient-dense diet, offering a wide range of vitamins and minerals to make you feel fitter, stronger and more alert.

The Recipes!

Beautifully illustrated, with colourful, mouth-watering images of all the meals, the recipe section is clearly laid out, easy to follow and, best of all, uses small lists of easy-to-source ingredients (I am turned off by long lists and complicated methods, no thank you!). Breakfast includes lots of egg recipes, which is great since I am currently limited to a plain omelette or ropy-looking poached eggs!

Granola

Granola

Lunch offers lots of delicious salads, soups and broths, and ‘wraps’ (with the wrap element being lettuce leaves), all bursting with colour and nutrients. Dinner is a meaty affair, which is fine by me, but we do try to eat meat only a couple of times a week – it took quite a lot of scrolling to reach the fish section! There is an excellent salad and sides section, with some tasty dips and sauces and lots of vegetable dishes to make into a main, or to accompany an earlier recipe as a side.

Grilled fresh trout

Grilled fresh trout

Quite often when I look at ‘healthy’ recipe books, the puddings are either overlooked or disappointingly dull, but this book offers a selection of fruity treats, such as Raspberry Ice Cream, using coconut milk (it looks yummy!) and one I might try this weekend, since we have lots of plums, Roast Plums with Star Anise and Cashew Nut Cream. Included also are snacks, smoothies and juices, so plenty (200 recipes!) to keep you focused on eating an array of foods across the week.

Try this at home!

Just like the picture in the book...sort of!

Just like the picture in the book…sort of!

This week I gave one of the recipes a try. It happened to be a day when Hector had a friend around after school, so I wondered if I was risking it trying something new with potentially fussy eaters! The Persian Chicken Kebabs are so incredibly easy to make though and, as I was mixing the marinade (garlic, pepper, ground coriander, turmeric, ground ginger and lemon juice) the boys looked on, Hector’s friend commenting ‘I don’t like ginger. I don’t like lemon juice. I don’t like chicken’. It was a different matter though, when I presented them with tasty skewers, piled on a mixed salad and they tucked in, telling me that they did ‘indeed like the chicken!’ Result! I do find it hard sometimes to work anything a bit different into our diet, but the recipes here can easily fit in with family life, with enough to choose from to please the choosy amongst us!

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The Primal Pantry Paleo Protein Bars

Yum!

I’ve tried bars from The Primal Pantry range before and really enjoyed them. I find them quite satisfying and filling, which is unusual because I often find myself reaching for the ‘snack box’ not long after eating the usual cereal bars. I was happy to be sent some of these to taste test and put them to very good use in the past few weeks, with my various epic events that needed both fuelling and refuelling (more on that in another post).

Paleo Bars

Paleo Bars

These two new protein bars in the range claim to be the ‘cleanest’ bars around (meaning they are made without any additives, preservatives, flavourings or colourants); they are also grain free, dairy free and gluten free. Even so, they are not short on flavour! I would say, having tried the other bars by The Primal Pantry, these are the tastiest yet, with the Cocoa Orange being a personal favourite, so orangey! I am hoping they might bring out a mint-choc flavour, now that would be delicious!

When should you use this bar in your training? I would say this is great post-activity, with both protein and carbohydrates to aid recovery. I have also used the bars (cut into neat little bite-size chunks) on a long bike ride though, finding they give a great energy-boost (and they gave me something to look forward to!). Try them for yourself, from health food shops and larger supermarkets, for £1.99.

Foodie Round-Up

I’ve been trying out a couple of new fuel and hydration products and though it might be good to pair them up and see how they can work together for a post-run/activity refuel/rehydrate option. First is DRINKMaple, which is a drink tapped from maple trees in Vermont. The website tells us that DRINKMaple is packed with nutrients and gives a refreshing low-calorie, gluten-free, dairy-free drink. You can read about the nutritional value here.

DRINKMaple

DRINKMaple

So what does it taste like? Well, erm, sugary water really. If you like sugary water, then great, but I prefer my water unsweet(ened) so, to gain the nutritional benefits, I added mine to a smoothie, with frozen berries, banana and a bit of almond milk.

Sweeeeet!

Sweeeeet!

That looks a bit more exciting doesn’t it?

To accompany my Super Maple-Berry Smoothie, I toasted a Dr Zak’s high protein cinnamon and raisin bagel. I’ve tested a few Dr Zak’s products before and found them tasty and filling, so these bagels are a nice addition. I buttered mine and added a little honey, which is just fine if you’ve run ten miles and pounded out an hour on the turbo trainer (more on my current training later in the week).

Refuel

Refuel

The bagels are tasty and they do fill you up for longer, but the most valuable feature is the high protein count, which is exactly what you need after a tough session.

Powerbar Sports Protein Plus

I’m doing a lot of swimming at the moment and those of you who have read about my swim sessions before will know that I get terribly ‘swamished’. This was a word coined by my friend Hugh after last year’s Swimathon. There’s something about swimming, more than running or cycling, that gives me a huge appetite and, if I don’t carry something in my bag to snaffle as soon as I’m dry (or even whilst drying myself!), then I will end up mindlessly eating daft stuff.

Three flavours

Three flavours

I was recently sent some Powerbar Sports Protein Plus bars to try out, by the people at ProBikeKit. I’m always eager to try new fuel and refuel foods, so started carrying these in my kit bag to see if they did the trick in fighting a bout of swamishness. They did! I was sent three flavours to try: Blueberry Nuts, Lemon Cheesecake and Orange Jaffa Cake. A personal favourite is definitely the Orange Jaffa Cake bar and not just because it’s covered in dark chocolate, really.

Jaffa Cakey

Jaffa Cakey

This one and the Lemon Cheesecake bar have a very different texture to the Blueberry Nut bar, kind of like a deliciously orangey (or lemony) Milky Way. I liked the chewiness and the freshness of the flavour. They also really filled me up after a hard swim. Result! The Blueberry Nut bar is more of a cereal bar, more crunchy and crispy, with added dried fruits. It’s recommended that we eat a combination of protein and carbs after exercise, to help repair our muscles and replenish glycogen. You can do this in a number of ways, if you are going straight home to eat (or are super prepared), but it’s often easier to stash a bar in your bag if you are on the go and these seem to be a tasty option. You can find out more about the bars here and buy some if you fancy trying something new, post-swim/run/ride.

Dr Zak’s Powdered Peanut Butter

Yes, really, powdered peanut butter! I wasn’t so sure myself, but actually, it’s pretty good.

Powdered PB

Powdered PB

It comes in a 150g tub (for £4.49) and you can mix it with equal parts water to make a paste to butter your bagels, or simply add it in powdered form to make a nutty and protein-packed smoothie. So, why powdered PB? What’s the difference? If you are looking to put some extra protein into your diet, but don’t like that protein-powder taste (and all the added sweeteners, emulsifiers and so on), then this is a simple option. The butter has just three ingredients (peanut flour, a little sugar and a pinch of salt) and has 80% less fat than conventional peanut butter and has a whopping 45g of high quality protein per 100g.

I mixed some up with a bit of water to get a nice smooth paste (and licking the spoon proved that it tastes pretty good – though I prefer a crunchy peanut butter for spreading) and added it to some banana and almond milk to make a tasty post-swim smoothie.

Smooth(ie)

Smooth(ie)

If you want to pack some extra protein without really trying that hard, then it’s pretty easy to bulk up your smoothie after your run/ride/swim, or to make your breakfast work that little bit harder. Have a look here to find out more.

Dr Zak’s Protein-Packed Nut Butters

Yum! I love peanut butter, so was drooling slightly at the thought of trying out the new Dr Zak’s nut butters. You might remember earlier in the year I tried out some of Dr Zak’s protein bagels and really liked them, so I was intrigued to sample something new. The peanut butters come in five flavours: Salted Caramel, White Chocolate & Coconut, Apple & Cinnamon, Cherry Bakewell and Fresh Raspberry; I was sent a jar each of the white chocolate and coconut and cherry bakewell flavours.

Peanutty goodness

Peanutty goodness

I must admit, I prefer my nut butters crunchy, with a bit of bite to them and these are smooth butters and quite runny. I don’t normally have the jam and peanut butter on toast combo so, in the interest of research, just stuck a spoon in and had a lick. Sweeeeeeeeeet!! Really, these are very sweet, so you might want to miss the jam layer! The spreads are made in the UK and are free from palm oil, naturally sweetened with fruit extract, contain no preservatives and deliver 7.2g of protein in every 20g serving, so this seems like a tasty way to get some additional protein in your diet when training hard.

Since I find them a bit sweet for my liking, I have been dolloping a spoonful in a post-run smoothie and also baked some peanut butter flapjacks as a refuelling treat (though, with the oil content, you need to adjust your baking time so they don’t burn. Ahem 😉 ). The spreads are made using the highest quality partially hydrolysed whey protein isolate, are approved by the Vegetarian Society and can be bought from a number of online stockists listed here (you can also search by postcode for your nearest retailer). Let me know if you think up any new ways to use peanut butter in your diet and post any links to tasty recipes below 🙂

Summer Round-Up

Arrrghhgh! Where has the summer gone?! I’m braving it and trying to keep the toes out for as long as I possibly can, but I felt decidedly chilly on this morning’s first-school-run-of-year-four (I know, year four!!). It really does seem like yesterday that I was picking Hector up from school with the whole, long, warm (?!) summer holidays ahead of us, and here we are in September. It was a lovely summer holiday, with lots of fun activities, many active…

Body Boarding in Dorset

Body Boarding in Dorset

Some less active…

Crumble-bound

Crumble-bound

Some that involved getting muddy…

In Deptford Creek

In Deptford Creek

And some that involved getting wet…

Royal Victoria Docks

Royal Victoria Docks

This last image shows the Royal Victoria Docks in East London. Some readers might know this from the London Triathlon – this is the same body of water that thousands of tri-hopefuls leap into each year. You can now go swimming here on a regular basis, so I thought I’d give it a try. The opening times are limited obviously, so I found myself setting my alarm for silly o’clock one Sunday morning, in an attempt to cycle over there, swim and get back in time to volunteer at Hilly Fields junior parkrun. Phew! It was, incidentally, the same weekend as the London Triathlon and some of the roads were closed and already being sped along by eager athletes, so I sort of got lost-ish on my way. It was ok though, because I found an equally bemused cyclist heading in the same direction. We chatted open-water as we pedalled and it turned out this chap was training to swim the channel. Yes, the channel. I bowed as much as you can bow whilst riding a bike. Needless to say, he was off in his speedos as soon as we got there, whereas I, in my usual nervous-numpty mode sat sadly on the side, unable to get in. You see, the steps that are usually there were not there, they had been removed because they were not safe. I was told it was ok though “…because it’s about twenty feet deep, so you can dive in”. To many swimmers this would be an invitation to splash, but I instantly froze at the thought of:

a) twenty feet deep

and

b) dive in

and gently swished my toes in the perfectly still, calm, golden sunrise water while others jumped in and swam off into the distance. A very kind coach came over and chatted to me, giving me some tips about what to do when I got in (roll onto my back, allow some water into my wetsuit). I knew I would be fine once I got in, but I was stuck. Eventually I gave myself a good old talking to and reminded myself that there was a kayaker lifeguard there to call out to if I really couldn’t do it. And shalumph, I plopped in and rolled onto my back. It was fine. I couldn’t have chosen a more beautiful morning for it and set off towards a big red buoy at a steady heads-out breaststroke. Numpty. I had decided that I would swim the 400 or so meters around and back to the pontoon and maybe go around again if I felt good. I did and I did. Maybe trying to do this kind of thing on a tight schedule is not a good idea and I should give myself more time. To get in.

Lots more open-water swimming was done on our camping trip to Dorset, some lovely sea swims after sandy runs along the beach at Studland. I am ok once I’m in the water, I just need to be able to ease myself in slowly. Maybe diving is the next challenge, but I’ll need to be pushed…anyone?

So, what’s next?

In three weeks I will be taking on the London Duathlon again. Remember last year when I pushed so hard (and neglected hydration and fuelling so much) that I threw up at the end? Well, this year I will be finishing with a smile on my face and hopefully not needing to lie down in a crumpled heap. The following week I will be stepping up to the Olympic distance triathlon at Hever Castle. I am properly nervous about this. Every time I read about it, it’s billed as being tough, with a ‘technical’ bike course and challenging trail run. But hey, the swim is in a beautiful lake (and river!) in the grounds of a stunner of a castle! Eek! There are events following these, but I’ll just get these two out of the way first shall I?! 😉