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Christmas is the time for plenty of good grub, spending WAY too much time with the family and just taking it easy.

If fitness is a big part of your life or you're looking to keep off the pounds over the festive period, we've got some tips and tricks for staying in shape.

However, we have to say that you SHOULD indulge over the Crimbo and don't even think about the calories you're consuming.

Walks with the gal

It's a rare occasion that all the gals are off work and are free to meet up.

A walk in the park with your closest friends is a great way to move over Christmas and it's a great excuse to get away from the family for an hour or two.

It is also an activity that you can tailor into your festive schedule, so it could be a quick 20 min chat-up or a two-hour stroll.

Ice Skating

It's the best winter fun around and ice skating can help to digest all the mince pies you've inhaled.

In general, a 45-minute muck-about on the ice will melt away 451 calories.

So get the fluffy socks out and lace up to enjoy some winter fitness.

Hiking

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Wrap up warm and get the hiking boots on.

There are plenty of trails and hikes to discover over the festive period.

It will give you an opportunity to reconnect with nature and to slow down after a year of working.

Water

Central heating, consuming large amounts of salt and being inactive can lead to one thing – dehydration.

So make sure that you keep one healthy habit this Crimbo and keep the water on hand.

Your body will thank you for it as it attempts to digest an uncountable number of roses sweets. 

Christmas Day swim 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Change up the way you start your Christmas day with a dip in the sea.

Make sure you find a safe swimming spot and enjoy the freezing cold, crisp open water.

Cold water boasts many healing properties such as easing depression.

It's a great way to end the year. 

5km Festive run

It's a tradition for a lot of households to do a 5 km run to kick off the festive season.

If you can drag any family member out on Christmas morning, it's a perfect way to start the day.

If your boyfriend's relatives do a 5km run for fun – we are sending you sympathy hugs (and there's still time to break-up with him before Christmas).

But they might be onto something as the run will ignite those endorphins (aka happy hormones) – and it doesn't matter if you run, walk or crawl the 5 km.

Stepping your way into the sales

Get in those steps as you hit the sales this year.

Elbows out as you wade your way through the crowds and snap up some bargains.

All your muscle power will come in handy as you wrestle the last pair of Gucci gloves out of an old lady's hands – they're stronger than they look.

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Getting ready to start the much-needed seasonal detox doesn’t mean that you have to forget all about your favourite comfort food.

In fact, we have rounded up some delicious recipes that will help you stick to any healthy 2017 plans while still filling you up and keeping hunger at bay.

1. Healthy potato mash

Dairy-free but not taste-free, this mashed sweet potato recipe is even better than the real stuff, with added nutritional value too.

2. Chicken goujons

This ultimate weeknight comfort food CAN be part of a healthy diet: just make it yourself instead of buying it ready-made in the shop!

3. Potato chips

If you want to cut down the calories, don’t fry your chips: bake them. With this delicious seasoning, you won’t miss the greasy stuff from the chipper.

4. Shepherd's pie

While it might not be just as good as your mam’s recipe, this shepherd’s pie will give you a taste of home without causing any damage to your waistline.

5. Spaghetti Bolognese

This classic Italian dish doesn’t have to make you feel guilty. With a few small changes to the original recipes, you can enjoy it as often as you want. To make it even healthier, use spiralised courgettes instead of pasta.

6. Thai curry

An easy weeknight dinner, curry is a great way to introduce more vegetables into your diet. Rich in plant protein to keep you fuller for longer, this delicious recipe won’t make you miss your Asian takeaway.

7. Ice-cream

Don’t feel bad about indulging with this dairy-free ice-cream, only made of good and healthy stuff. Ben & Jerry who?

8. Cheesecake

A traditional cheesecake is probably one of the worst things that can happen to your diet. But if you use low-fat dairy, it can turn into an acceptably clean January pre-workout treat.

9. Raw millionaire shortbreads

Raw, full of good fats and natural sugars, this delicacy will satisfy your craving for sweet while providing you with loads of nutrients.

10. Mini-pizza bites

Easy to make, vegetarian, low in carbs but high in flavour, these aubergine-based pizzas are a great healthy recipe to make whenever you feel like giving a call to your friends in Dominos

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There is nothing traditional (or healthy) in a spice bag, but we can't help but love them. Along with pizza and burgers, this tasty dish is among our favourite takeaway options.

With his book Fakeaway, Chef Adrian shares his own version of some takeaway classic so we can enjoy them without the guilt. 

Chef Adrian's version of the spice bag uncovers the whole truth about what goes in this dish – but it's much healthier than the original…

THE SPICE BAG

"The latest trendy thing to eat across Ireland is the spice bag. It’s sold in Chinese takeaways, but was invented in Ireland. With this dish, it’s all about the spice mixture. Here’s my version."

Serves 2

  • 2 chicken breasts, sliced into small strips
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • Sliced red and green chilli (optional)
  • For the chips
  • 4 medium-sized Maris Piper potatoes, washed
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary, chopped
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

For the spice

  • 2 good pinches of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese five spice
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  •   ½ teaspoon chilli powder

1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6.

2. To make the chips, slice the potatoes to whatever thickness you like. Sprinkle with the chopped rosemary and sliced onion, coat with the coconut oil and bake for 35–40 minutes. Make sure you mix all the ingredients with your hands before cooking. If your tray isn’t non-stick, use some greaseproof or parchment paper.

3. To prepare the chicken, place the strips into the beaten egg. In a separate bowl mix the cumin and ground almonds, then place the chicken strips into the mixture, ensuring they are fully coated. If you find they aren’t fully coated, go back and dip into the egg and then back into the ground almond mix once more. 

4. Place the chicken onto a baking tray, put it in the oven and bake for 20–30 minutes.

5. Mix the spices together in a small bowl. Once cooked, combine the chicken and chips and then from a height sprinkle the spice mix over them, making sure to coat both the chicken and chips.

6. I recommend serving this in a bag or wrapped up in some newspaper, with a sprinkling of red and green sliced chilli.

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We've heard it time and time again.

Thanks to various diets such as Atkins and Paleo, it has become more and more common to hear your mate say, 'I'm cutting out ALL carbs this week' when she wants to lose a few inches.

Of course, most people give up within a few days (or hours) because bread and pasta… glorious.

food water perfect make genius

However, a new study has revealed that pasta isn't that bad, and can actually help you along the way to becoming a healthier person.

Department of Epidemiology at the Institute for Research, Hospitalization, and Health Care in Italy analysed the eating habits of 23,000 people.

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert food hungry yum late show

Out of all the participants, they found that those who ate pasta regularly had a reduced likelihood of being obese.

"Our data shows that enjoying pasta according to individuals' needs contributes to a healthy body mass index, lower waist circumference, and better waist-hip ratio," George Pounis, the author of the study wrote.

pasta

Taking a line from the Mediterranean diet, which has been proved to be one of the healthiest, pasta is a "fundamental" part and cutting it out to lose weight is not the "correct attitude."

Well, pass the Carbonara then.

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Yes, it's Monday we have all decided to be good this week.

But is there a better way to make sure that you stick to your balanced diet than including some healthy treats along the way?

The recipes below all feel like pure indulgence without being a threat to your waistline. So give them a go!

1. Healthy double chocolate banana brownies

2. Healthy baked chocolate oats

3. Double chocolate breakfast cookies

4. No-bake chocolate macaroons

5. Two-ingredient banana chocolate chips ice-cream bites

6. Cheesecake cupcakes

7. Healthy peanut butter cups

8. Paleo coconut blondies

9. Honey banana muffins

 

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After a month full of office chocolates and late nights with friends, it's not hard to see why many of us attempt to embrace a healthier lifestyle once January rolls around.

It's a time to let go of old habits and make positive changes in our lives – but just like most things that are good for us, it's easier said than done.

But never fear, because The Happy Pear wants to help you start 2018 on the right foot.

Running from Monday January 8 to Sunday February 4 at The Happy Pear's Clondalkin location, the Happy Heart course will help participants improve their health through a whole food and plant-based approach to eating.

For just €149, the course is delivered both online and in the classroom and has been designed to help participants learn how to make delicious and easy food that will boost energy levels, perk up health, lower cholesterol, and promote weight loss.

The Happy Pear founders, Dave and Steve, have supported thousands of people to make healthier eating and lifestyle choices through this course over the years.

Those who have successful completed the lessons have had great results including an average 20% drop in cholesterol, lower blood pressure, weight loss and renewed energy, and all through food.

The NEW blended Happy Heart online and classroom course in Clondalkin includes:

  • Access to The Happy Heart online course for 8 weeks

  • Two evenings of demonstrations at The Happy Pear, Round Tower, with Dave and Steve, plus the chance to taste lots of delicious plant-based food (on Monday 8th and Monday 29th January, 7 – 9pm)

  • Two 'Happy Heart Meetup' evenings with guest speakers (on Wednesday 17th and 24th January, 7.30 – 9pm)

  • Access to online whole food and plant-based recipes, videos, meal plans, shopping list and nutritional information  

  • Two live Q&A sessions with Dave and Steve

  • Access to an online Facebook group of other Happy Hearters plus additional support with our online Happy Heart team.

The Happy Heart course also runs as an online-only course (without the four classroom dates) and is currently available for a limited time only at the discounted price of €79 using the promo code HAPPYYOU – see here for more details.

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In recent years coconut oil has been hailed as a one-stop wonder pot for pretty much everything.

Moisturise your skin, conditioner your hair, whiten your teeth – is there anything this stuff can't do?

Many of us have also taken to using it while cooking as a 'healthier' alternative to some of the other cooking oils on the market.

However, a new health advisory published in the US suggests that there are no significant studies to support the claim that it is better for us.

According to The American Heart Association (AHA), coconut oil is made up of 82 per cent saturated fat, which is known to increase bad cholesterol levels.

Lead author of the advisory and professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, Frank Sacks say the media is to blame for shaping “public perception about saturated fats.”

He adds, “One of the real problems in transmitting health information is that generally people who are writing about it don’t look into what’s come before.”

“The media also don’t pay much attention to new studies that support or extend current dietary recommendations.”

“The overall effect has misled the public on the science of dietary fats.”

Maintaining a high ratio of good to bad cholesterol is key when consuming saturated fats, and according to scientists, coconut oil simply doesn't fit the bill.

Frank continued, “I just don’t know who is pushing it, but it’s not scientists."

“It may be driven by manufacturers looking to profit, or some countries’ economic dependence on coconut oil.”

However, if you are looking for a healthier oil to use when cooking, Frank recommends canola oil which contains relatively low amounts of saturated fats (7 per cent).

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If you have ever scrolled through Instagram, we're sure you have come across one of those intricately decorated, delicious looking smoothie bowls. 

Rather than being turned off by the concept of fruit soup, the very photogenic smoothie trend took off, blossoming in the fitness and healthy eating corner of social media sites.

Now, one Dublin duo are bringing the smoothie bowl to the city, with a pop-up in healthy eating haven Cocu.

Kale + Coco are a brand new smoothie bowl innovation, ran by two entrepreneurial young women, Rebecca and Jen. 

The pair have started the brand new venture in the form of a pop-up in Cocu on Hatch Street, and their colourful creations look divine. 

The pop-up features a selection of signature bowls, which sound completely delicious. 

There is the Classic Açai, made of blended frozen banana, coconut water and organic Amazonia açai topped with fresh banana, strawberries, granola and coconut chips.

 

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We also LOVE the sound of The Khaleesi – blended frozen banana, coconut water, passion fruit and organic dragon fruit topped with banana, granola, mango and coconut chips

The bowls start at €7.50 and the pop-up will be in Cocu all summer long, we'll see you there. 

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Listen, we don't go to Supermac's to get in our five-a-day.

We go to Supermac's, mostly in the early hours of the morning, to chomp on the deliciousness that is their chunky chips.

However, that could all soon be changing.

Image result for supermacs chips

While speaking to The Capital B, the owner of Supermac's Pat McDonagh, said that the Irish food chain is changing with the times – and that means "healthy" chips.

"Healthy eating has come into the fore and everyone has to adjust, people focused on health food are doing quite well. They're taking up the idea that's come in from the US and ran with it.

"But you'll always have people who want to have a burger, what we've done is gone the fresh route with beef, the fresh route with chicken and we'll be going the fresh route with the chips in the not so distant future".

However, for us Negative Nancies who think there's nothing better than the original, crispy chip, Pat assures us that the side order will, indeed, taste better.

Image result for supermacs chips

"You can't beat anything that's fresh, that's why the chicken sandwich tastes so good, it's because it's a fresh product. Anything that you freeze loses some of its quality.

"Likewise with the fresh meats, there's a better taste, better flavour, it's better quality across the board, and we know this because we're selling more of them".

We think we'll have to taste them for ourselves, Pat…

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Whether you pre-pack some grub or head out to the deli on a daily basis, a sandwich is the perfect lunchtime staple.

However, loading the meat and mayo on isn't the healthiest – but, what's a girl to do if you just want something to fill your belly?

Well, actually there are a few tiny tweaks that you can make when putting your sandwich together that can save you on the carb, sugar and calorie front.

A few health professionals told Women's Health the best swaps, and here, we picked out the best five to make sure you get the most out of your lunchtime sambo:

1. Cheese please

"Replace your processed Swiss or American slices with creamy cashew cheese. It's vegan and replaces saturated fats with healthy ones, plus it's loaded with B vitamins, fiber, protein, and magnesium." —McKel Hill, R.D.

bread, delicious, food

 

2. A green makeover

"Give your egg salad a green makeover by mashing a ripe avocado in it—you'll get all the texture and cohesiveness of mayo, with bonus fiber and healthy fats." —Kayleen St John, R.D.

bread, breakfast, cheese

 

3. Spread it 

"Use hummus as a sandwich spread to reap the benefits of beans. The chickpea spread moistens your bread just as well, and is packed with plant protein, B vitamins, fiber, and iron, all of which help support a healthy heart and aid in weight management." – Holley Grainger, R.D. 

Image result for hummus sandwich instagram

 

4. Curb the carbs

"Get whole grain of course, but also be smart about the amount of bread making up your sandwich. Some rolls can equal four slices of bread." – Ellie Krieger, R.D

baking, bread, breakfast

 

5. Go veggie

"Layer grilled vegetables (like zucchini, onions, bell peppers) and tender herbs (like mint or basil) on your sandwiches, along with the usual lettuce and tomato, to add big flavor and texture with health benefits." —Ellie Krieger, R.D

avocado, bread, cutting board

 

Oh, and while we have you; don't forget to have your say in the inaugural SHEmazing Awards this May! It's time to vote, and you can do it right here!

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Variety – as well as compromise – is the spice of life. So while we might not be able to resist EVERY single treat going – some small tweaks and occasional changes can make a big difference to how we look and feel.

That and reaching for a large glass of Pinot Grigio most nights of the week isn't always so appealing when you know you'll be up at the crack of dawn with loud and lively small ones.

With that in mind, we've compiled a list of five fabulously delicious snacks to tuck into when you feel a lift-me-up that doesn't involve a pounding headache or inhaling two packets of Hobnobs…  

1) Dark chocolate and green tea

According to one US study, dark chocolate and green tea is the ideal combo to tackle that mid-afternoon energy drop. If you snack on these, you should feel more alert and attentive thanks to the dark chocolate (minimum 60 percent cacao). Meanwhile your blood pressure should also instantly drop thanks to the amino acid L-theanine, which is a relaxant found in green tea. 
 
2) Apple with peanut butter or banana and almond butter
Peanut, almond or cashew butters are great sources of healthy fats and protein, and fruits provide us with fibres, essential for our gut health and to regulate our appetite. Spread a thin layer of nut butter on your favourite fruit and you get a lovely sweet, filling and healthy snack. However, if you're keeping an eye on your calorie intake, don’t be too heavy-handed with the nut butter, as it’s very rich. 

3) Almond stuffed prunes

So much more than an elderly lady constipation treatment! To make them softer, soak your prunes in tea or water and stuff them with a lightly grilled almond. Prunes are a good source of potassium, iron, and of course fibres to help digestion and promote a healthy gut. To mix things up a little, swap almonds with walnuts and the prunes with dates.
 
4) Energy balls
Energy/protein balls were a BIG food trend in 2016, and for good reason. Making them yourself in bulk will make them much more affordable than when you buy them in the shop. Depending on what ingredients you use, they can be a great source of vitamins and minerals. Just Google “energy balls” and you will find countless recipes. Try the likes of peanut butter, dates, oats and cacao power ball, or blend together dates, your favourite nuts, goji berries, coconut and cacao for example. Be careful, these treats are seriously addictive!

5) Greek yoghurt, blackberries and honey
A great source of protein, probiotics, potassium and calcium, Greek yoghurt is definitely your waistline friend. Top it with blackberries (full of vitamin C and antioxidants, and low in calories) and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup, you will get a filling and delicious snack that your tummy will thank you for. 
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Nakd bars have really taken off.

Made with natural ingredients, they contain just fruit and nuts, and not an ounce of the refined rice puffs you find in most 'healthy' cereal bars.

Full of vitamins and minerals, they're also – HURRAH! – seriously delicious.

But if you regularly tuck in, it might be an idea to make a batch of them yourself.

The great thing is that they’re extremely easy to make. Here’s a version of the recipe that we tried out and absolutely loved. 

As you'll see, you can alter it slightly, depending on what extract you opt for, meaning you can mix it up and never get bored…

Ingredients: (serves 12)

1 ½ cups of dates

½ cup of raisins

1 ½ cups of cashew nuts

2 tsp vanilla extract (or orange, or mint)

2 tbsp cocoa

Method:

1. Blend all of the ingredients. Then line a container with cling film and press the mixture into it.

2. Pop it into the fridge and leave it sit there for about half an hour. 

3. Cut it into ‘bars' (or any shape you like really!)

4. Eat! If you put them in the fridge, they'll last about three-four weeks in an airtight container. If you want to freeze them, wrap them up individually to keep them fresh – they should be good for a couple of months. 

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