Green therapy

Life, Lifestyle

Hi there, it’s been awhile since I’ve written – a lot’s been happening! I’ve just moved flats to a beautiful new part of London with its own garden space. I’m not sure about you, but I didn’t realise how much of an impact green space has to wellbeing until I moved!

The outside entry ways to our old flat looked like this:

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The outside entry ways to our new flat looks like this:

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Big difference, huh?

Previous to moving, I’d say the happiness level leaving the house was probably a 6 out of 10 on a good day, especially as I stepped out on to the street. After moving, my general happiness is about a 9 out of 10 on most days! Seeing greenery, hearing birds, has made a significant difference.

Action of the week:

Try adding some greenery to your space and see how it works for you! If you don’t have garden space, find ways to incorporate some greenery, with plants in your house. An increased number of plants will also help oxygenate your home, so your air quality will improve.

If you think you will “kill” all of your plants, try making a terrarium. They require very little water, and are very low maintenance. I made some this weekend, while planting some into various pots. Took a little less than an hour to put together once having the materials. Enjoy your week!

xx Min

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Meatless March Recap

Lifestyle, Nutrition & Well-being

So it’s the end of Meatless March… how did you fare?

Actually I really tried my best to be good – but found that old habits really die hard. My husband was cooking dinner, and immediately added the usual fish stock broth to our soup. I tasted it and knew immediately but what could be done that point? I ended up eating that delicious and well-made dinner – and didn’t give myself a hard time about it.

Let’s face it. We can’t be “perfect, always following ridiculously high standards for ourselves and getting down on ourselves when it doesn’t work out exactly to plan. Isn’t life bigger than that? Sometimes there are unexpected changes, and you have to adjust to them. Remember, that is OK, you’ve done your best with what you have, in that given moment. Think about the overall progress you make and don’t discount all you’ve done!

So overall, my Meatless March ended up being 28 out of 31 days being meat (including fish) free! I’d say overall it is pretty good. Plus, I also cut out dairy and other general animal products such as honey during this time too. I’ve also learned another important intuition about myself from this process. I’m a very active person, and for my body, a bit of fish here and there feels very nourishing and good for me – and felt at times really depleted when I didn’t have heavier meals.

If you were able to join this challenge with me – think about the takeaways. What kind of a lifestyle do you lead? Are you very active? Or do you spend most days cycling in to work, or light walking, etc? Try to listen to your body more, and “hear” what it’s asking you for. Some days, you might feel a bit off eating meat and other days you feel like you really need it. Honour your body and what it’s asking for, likely you’ll feel better for it.

Staple for a veggie diet: whole grains

Lifestyle, Nutrition & Well-being

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Shouldn’t I be eating more protein? How do I make sure I get enough on a vegetarian diet?

There is a big misconception of carbs being the “bad food”. In fact, whole grains are packed full of iron, B-complex vitamins, fiber, essential enzymes AND protein. Try out some new types of whole grains, either in baking or cooked foods!

  • Wheat germ (1 gram protein to 2.5 grams carbs)
  • Oat bran (1 gram protein to 3 grams carbs)
  • Quinoa (1 gram protein to 4.5 grams carbs)
  • Amaranth (1 gram protein to 4.5 grams carbs)
  • Wild rice (1 gram protein to 5 grams carbs)
  • Teff (1 gram protein to 5 grams carbs)
  • Barley (1 gram protein to 6 grams carbs)
  • Brown rice (1 gram protein to 9 grams carbs) – remember not to just watch protein. Did you know this grain has the highest vitamin B content of all rice?

Look forward to some recipes involving whole grains ahead!

Another tip: Before cooking rice, soaking your grains overnight to eliminate the phytic acid in them. Phytic acid is on most whole grains and it prevents you from absorbing zinc!

March Challenge: Meatless March

Lifestyle, Nutrition & Well-being

 

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As many of you know, I’m a pescetarian (eat no meat / land animal, but all seafood is OK) that also avoids dairy (amongst other foods I know I have intolerances to). Changing how you eat comes slowly, as you get to know your body’s responses to foods, exercise, and how it changes in different environments. I stopped eating red meat in particular, because I noticed difficulty in digesting it, but still eat fish as I didn’t have much trouble with it.

As part of the journey to being a holistic health coach and my holistic nutrition program though, I am making myself open to experimenting more with what works for my body also in terms of things like energy levels. This *may* mean I venture back into eating certain types of meat I crave, but firstly, I would like to try a full vegan diet for one month and see how I fare.

I’ll be posting my transition to eating a meatless (and actually vegan) diet, from recipes to applying knowledge from my nutrition program. 

I would like to open the challenge to all of you this month to make it a “Meatless March”. Try out even one week of cutting out meat in your diet, and in the process also listen to your body’s cravings, energy levels, feelings and responses to eating food. Are you with me? I’d love to hear about your thoughts and how you do throughout this month too! 

The health perils on the road… and how to avoid them

Nutrition & Well-being, Travel

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Hi misfits!

Sometimes our lives demand us on travel. If you are a management consultant like I was for a number of years, this means you get on a plane every week for the perpetuity of your project. This week, I’ve been away for a wedding in Canada. Travel usually it means a complete disruption to how you do things normally in your home city, depending on whether you’re heading to a new city, country, or continent and having to establish new healthy habits.

It’s hard to be healthy on the road, between the temptations to skip workouts from jet lag, and eat everything novel – but it is possible by establishing boundaries and different healthy habits.

Here are some tips:

1. Set realistic goals for your week.

Before heading on to travels, get into the mindset of how you will incorporate healthy habits on your time away from the norm. Set workout times in your calendar, and decide to make healthy meal choices.

2. Drink water over soda, or other caloric drinks. 

Keep yourself hydrated throughout the day with water, so you don’t think you’re hungry when you’re actually thirsty. Plus, by drinking plenty of fluids you’ll force yourself to listen to nature when it calls – getting you more mobile throughout the day too.

3. Snack on healthy items throughout the day.

When I used to live the Monday to Thursday travel lifestyle, I packed a bag of snacks consisting of hard boiled eggs, fruits, veggies from the hotel buffet lounge each morning. I would munch on these throughout the day, which prevented me from binge eating that lunch, going for a sugary mid-afternoon snack, or eating an uncomfortable amount of food just before bed for dinner after a long workday.

4. Find workout buddies and exercise together in the morning. 

During my consistent travel days, we had a small group of us within the team that would meet each other at the gym and do HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts together. Keeping each other accountable, we would get up at 6am each morning and roll down to the gym next door, and out of the four days I was living in a hotel, I would hit the gym three of those days.

5.Make healthier food choices for lunch and dinner.

When you’re traveling, you’ll have to always eat out – which means the cooked food naturally has more salt, sugar, and fat content to make it tastier. Try to get as close to the natural food source as possible – opt for the salad bar, limit fried foods, etc.

6. Moderate, moderate, moderate your portions.

There is always lots of food, and you may want to spend your food allowance or eat more than you’re used to just because it’s there. But remember moderation – you only have one body, it’s pretty sacred and the short-term gain of having something just for the sake of it being tasty isn’t worth it when you’re racked with digestion discomfort later on. 

It is definitely hard to be healthy on the road, but with a healthy mindset, discipline and some planning, it is very doable. You should definitely enjoy yourself too, but too much of a “good thing” ends up not being so great in the long run – so choose to be happy and healthy!

 

How to design quick, impactful workouts

Fitness, Lifestyle

Happy Monday, fellow misfits!

Do you schedule your alarm clock, only to press the snooze button twice, then wake up in a panic as you’ve slept in for 30 minutes? As a person that schedules my workouts in the morning, I usually feel a pang of guilt as I’ve scheduled an hour workout but now there’s only half that time. The thing is, sleep is also a very important part of recovery, and your overall health. If you’re short for time, instead of cutting down on essential pieces of your life besides exercise – try to make your exercise regimen more efficient. 

In honour of starting a new job this week, I thought a post on getting in quick, impactful workouts would be fitting – as I’m sure I’ll be increasing the frequency of these.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a very effective, efficient method of training when you’re short for time. It involves (as it says) intervals with sprints on timers, that will increase your heart rate giving you a cardio workout at the same time as working on muscular endurance. You can design your own HIIT workout and put it into effect easily – all you need is a timer (you could use the Interval Timer on the iPhone or Workout Timer on Android) and a set of 5-10 exercises you’d like to do. Plus, you could do the workout anywhere, indoors, outdoors (such as on a mountain), with or without equipment.

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Depending on your fitness level, there will be variation in:

1. Duration of each exercise set (30 seconds is easier, 60 seconds significantly more difficult)

2. How heavy your weights are (depending on the exercise)

3. How long is your rest period in between sets (~10 seconds or none)

4. How many sets you do (2-3)

5. How many exercises you want to do (5-10)

For instance, a sample HIIT workout for a beginner could like:

Rotate through each exercise below, 30 seconds per exercise, with a 10 second break in between each exercise. Complete 2-3 sets. (~10 minutes if doing 3 sets)

  • Squats (no weights)
  • Jumping jacks
  • Push-ups
  • Mountain climbers
  • Tricep dips

If you don’t feel like designing your own workout, there are tons of resources out there with free workouts, including a website devoted to HIIT workouts as well as examples on Pinterest, YouTube, etc.

Looks like time constraints are no longer an excuse… happy training this week!

Guide to physical fitness this week

Fitness

It’s another Monday! Previous to getting too much further into your busy week of work, try to set aside 5 minutes of time to plan out your workouts this week.

Here are a few tips to consider when planning:

1. Make it dead simple for you to do your workouts. For instance, if you’re working out the next morning first thing before work, get all of your workout gear laid out and ready to go, along with water bottle. If you’re working out in the evening, get your gym bag, pre/post workout snack all packed and ready to go so it’s easy to grab in the AM.

2. Try to schedule your workouts in the morning, rather than in the evening. Speaking from experience as a management consultant, if I miss my morning workout, the evening usually turns into a work-a-thon, or I become ravenously hungry during dinner hours, and the evening workout just doesn’t happen.

3. 15-20 minutes of a high intensity weight training session is better than NO workout. Even if you get up late, just go!

4. Look at doing 2-3 sessions of cardio and 2-3 sessions of weight training per week. For cardio, depending on what your levels are at, a short run that’s 20-30 minutes is manageable during the week while a longer run (~1 hour) during the weekend is one method. For weight training, focus on training all major muscle groups, particularly focusing on your shoulders, legs and core strength if you’re short for time.

5. If you’re very short for time, 2-3 times per week of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is a great way to keep your cardio and strength up. There’s lots of examples of workouts online, check out this one on Shape.

Have fun training!

Part 2 – Healthy recipe #2 for your work week

Dinner, Lunch, Nutrition & Well-being, Recipes

As I mentioned in my last post, welcome to part 2 of healthy, cost-conscious, portable recipes to try out!

Spicy vegetarian chili

Vegetarian chili with homemade goat yogurt

Prep Time: ~15 minutes (or soak the beans 8 hours in advance if you don’t like to use canned beans)
Cook Time: ~10 minutes (+30 minutes on a timer)
Total Time: ~1 hour

For ingredients, you could really add any type of beans you like, as well as other veggies you love! Or, realistically you could input veggies you have left over in your fridge – it’s a great way to use them up while getting a highly varied, better tasting chili.

Ingredients:
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño or red chili pepper, seeded, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded, diced
2 tbsp chipotle chili powder (or more for spicier chili)
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 cup tomato sauce
4 cups water
1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained
1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, drained
1 (15-oz) can red kidney beans, drained
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
6 oz pepper Jack cheese, shredded

Preparation:
1. Add the olive oil and onions to a pot, and place over medium heat. Saute the onions until they are translucent.

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2. Add the garlic, jalapeño, red bell pepper, oregano, chipotle, cumin, and chili powder. Cook stirring for 3 minutes.

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3. Add the tomato sauce, or make your own! If you have a blender, it’s very easy to do. I took 6-7 tomatoes, and mixed it with the 4 cups of water in my Vitamix blender. You could use a food processor as well, it will work just as well!

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4. Add in the remaining ingredients (water, if you didn’t make your own tomato paste), beans and veggies you like.

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5. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and at this stage, set a timer for 30 minutes while your chili stews and you go enjoy doing something else.

6. Serve in bowls with your desired toppings. Chives, goat yogurt, or shredded cheese are all great options! 

Part 1 – Easy meal planning for your week

Nutrition & Well-being, Recipes

One of the ways I stay healthy and trim is to plan out my week’s eating and exercise regimen in advance on the weekend. I make recipes that I could easily portion into batches, freeze and take in pieces during the week. Depending on how ambitious I feel, I make all of my snacks (e.g. granola bars, kale chips, etc.) as well as my meals. 

Try out one of these recipes for your week today! 

1. Vegan red lentil and sweet potato soup 

It’s winter … and a soup is just perfect on a cold day. Lentils are a great source of protein which will keep you full long after your meal without a food coma. Also, feel free to modify the veggies in the recipe. This time, I also added mushrooms just because I really love them. Enjoy!

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Ingredients

2 Tbsp coconut or extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 Tbsp paprika powder
1 diced large onion
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 minced cloves garlic
2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 peeled and diced sweet potatoes
1 diced (stemmed, seeded) red bell pepper (optional)
1 1/2 cups rinsed red lentils
6 cups water

How

1. Chop all veggies

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2. Lightly heat the olive oil in a large pot over low-medium heat.

3. Add cook cumin, turmeric and curry powder and stir until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes.

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4. Add onion with a few pinches salt, and cook, stirring, until tender, about 6 minutes.

5. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until tender, about 2 minutes.

6. Add sweet potatoes and bell pepper and cook 1 minute. Add other veggies you may like, such as carrots, and mushrooms.

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7. Add lentils and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

8. Season with salt and pepper to your liking!

A tip: invest in some good stainless steel or hardy containers of different sizes. I batch mine up by size for soups to bring in to work, and also freeze in larger portions and thaw when needed.

Simple tips to healthy eating

Lifestyle, Nutrition & Well-being

In this post, I want to share some quick, easy tips to eat well without it being a hassle. Here are some easy tips to get you started:

1. Learn to really listen to your body. Eat slower, and stop when you are beginning to get full. Save the rest for later.

2. Eat more frequently, it’s better to snack on smaller meals 5-6 times per day rather than the three large meals (you ARE eating breakfast, right?)

3. Try to make each meal a composition of slow carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. E.g. A hearty lentil soup, apple with raw nuts, fish and salad, etc.

4. Eat a small something before and after you work out.

  • Pre-workout: something easy to digest and carbohydrate rich, like a smoothie about a half hour before
  • Post-workout: immediately or within the hour, have a protein and carbohydrate rich snack like a protein granola bar

5. Don’t think you need to cut out everything that’s delicious, but limit consumption of treats (e.g. a slice of cake, coke, etc.) to once day per week.

6. Limit eating processed foods, and foods with high sugar and salt content.

7. Don’t forget your fluids – keep your water bottle around and drink throughout the day as you get thirsty.