My scales hate me!

Okay, I confess, I didn’t exactly bother with healthy eating while I was on holiday. When faced with all the foods I love that are unavailable here, I don’t have much self-control. There were fish and chips, cream teas, Cornish pasties and crumpets. But there were also days we skipped lunch because by the time we had finished whatever thing we were doing it made more sense to go straight to tea (uh, that’s dinner to most of you). And there was walking along beaches and around botanical gardens for miles. Plus we went hiking three times in the Lake District. That’s three four-hour hikes, up and down mountains, clambering over rocks, squelching through bogs… so why do my scales tell me I’ve not only put on all the weight I had lost (which admittedly was only just over a kilogram), but also put on an extra kilogram on top of that? It just goes to show what I already suspected… when it comes to weight loss, exercise is of no use to me. The only way for me to get those scales to be my friend is to cut calories. And with a mere three months to go until I need to fit in a bridesmaid dress, it is a matter of some urgency! So no more crisps, chocolate, cakes and bacon for me… except as a special treat. Healthy eating starts now.

scone
This scone with clotted cream and jam was worth every calorie!
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10 day 10-a-day challenge

I recently read a post by Kezzie in which she challenged herself to see whether she ate 10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, based on recent news that scientists say we should actually be eating 10-a-day and not 5 as previously advised.  That post inspired me to take the challenge myself and see whether I manage 10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day (although I was already fairly sure I wasn’t even reaching the originally advised 5!).

Coincidentally, I had read the news myself a few days before seeing Kezzie’s post and, after a discussion with Jan, ended up on the NHS website reminding myself of what constitutes a portion. Prior to that, I had assumed we were at least reaching the 5 on some days thanks to the amount of beans and chickpeas we eat, so I was horrified to discover that beans and pulses are only allowed to count as one portion per day no matter how many you eat! I had already decided then that I would need to start relying less on beans, but for the purposes of this experiment I stuck with our “normal” meals to give you an accurate picture of how we eat. So now you get to see just how awful my diet actually is…

Quick note: I’m not going to get into ridiculous fractions, so where an amount was less than 1 portion but more than half I will count it as half a portion. For instance, 7 cherry tomatoes is a portion so if I only had 5 I’ll call it half a portion.

I didn’t take photos of all my meals, so the collages are just a random selection. You can try to match the photos to the meals if you like 😉
I will also apologise in advance for the quality of my photography… I’m no good at food photos! Right, without any further ado, here we go:

Day 1:

Breakfast: Greek style yoghurt with honey and walnuts -> 0 portions
Lunch: Scrambled eggs with 5 cherry tomatoes -> ½ portion
Dinner: Tuna pasta bake containing:
– chickpeas and kidney beans (only allowed to count as one portion all together. Booo!) -> 1 portion
– Courgette -> 1 portion
– Tinned tomatoes -> third of a tin, so maybe 1½ portions?

Total: 4 portions

Day 2:
(I was in the office on this day so breakfast and lunch were purchased on the way and Jan was in charge of dinner!)

Breakfast: Chocolate croissant -> 0 portions
Lunch: “Veggie” baguette with avocado and feta -> I think it was ½ an avocado, so 1 portion
Dinner: Bread with cheese and ham -> 0 portions
Snacks: Dried apples and berries -> ½ portion
2 mini cakes -> 0 portions
Capri-Sun (contains fruit juice but definitely doesn’t count!) -> 0 portions

Total: 1½ portions

Day 3:

Breakfast: Nothing (naughty!) -> 0 portions
Lunch: Leftover tuna pasta bake (see above) -> 3½ portions
Dinner: Chilli con carne made with
– Kidney beans (not allowed to count because I had beans earlier in the day) -> 0 portions
– Red pepper -> 1 portion
– Tinned tomatoes -> half a tin, 2 portions?
Served in whole wheat tortillas with cheese and iceberg lettuce -> hopefully ½ portion
Snacks: Sweet potato crisps (sweet potato counts as veg. but I hardly had any crisps) -> o portions
Orange juice (can only count once no matter how much you drink!) -> 1 portion

Total: 7 portions

Day 4:
(We had visitors this day and dinner was at a restaurant)

Breakfast: Toast with jam (fruity but doesn’t count!) -> 0 portions
Lunch: Sausage roll -> 0 portions
Carrot, orange and ginger smoothie -> 1 portion
Dinner: Pizza with courgette and aubergine -> maybe ½ a portion
Panna cotta with a few bits of fruit -> 0 portions

Total: 1½ portions

Day 5:

Breakfast: Bread rolls with jam and chocolate spread -> 0 portions
Blood orange juice -> 1 portion
Lunch: Bread roll with cheese -> 0 portions
Dinner: Roasted butternut squash risotto
– Butternut squash -> 3 portions (it was a big vegetable!)
– Leek -> possibly ½ a portion
Snacks: Magnum ice cream (and I regret nothing!) -> 0 portions
Apple with almond purée -> 1 portion

Total: 5½ portions

Day 6:

Breakfast: Toast with jam -> 0 portions
Blood orange juice -> 1 portion
Lunch: Some just-add-water couscous thing -> 0 portions
Mango -> 1½ portions (I think)
Dinner: Corned beef hash. I always make it with baked beans, and this time I added borlotti beans as well to stretch it a bit since there weren’t as many potatoes left as I thought. -> 1 portion
Snacks: Mini packet of gummi bears -> 0 portions
Chocolate chip cookie -> 0 portions

Total: 3½ portions

Day 7:

Breakfast: Porridge (apple & cinnamon flavour, but not enough apple to count!) -> 0 portions
Lunch: Lemon pepper fish with potato croquettes -> 0 portions
Dinner: Pepper stuffed with a quinoa/bulgar wheat mix and feta cheese -> 2 portions
Served with salad consisting of the remaining feta cheese plus:
Lamb’s lettuce -> ½ portion
Apple -> ½ portion
Avocado -> 1 portion

Total: 4 portions

Day 8:

Breakfast: Nothing -> 0 portions
Lunch: Leftover stuffed pepper -> 2 portions
Orange juice -> 1 portion
Dinner: Sausage casserole containing:
Cannellini beans -> 1 portion
Carrots -> 1 portion
Tinned tomatoes -> 2 portions?
Served with sweet potato mash (counts as veg. Yay!) -> 2 portions
Snack: Chocolate brownie (and now you also know why I’m failing to lose weight…) -> 0 portions

Total: 9 portions

Day 9:

Breakfast: Chia & cashew muesli bar (contains raisins, but not enough) -> 0 portions
Lunch: Lemon pepper fish (yes, again!) -> 0 portions
Crackers with hummus -> 1 portion
Dinner: Chicken enchiladas made with;
Kidney beans (don’t count because of hummus for lunch) -> 0 portions
Courgette -> ½ portion
Tinned tomatoes -> 1 portion

Total: 2½ portions

Day 10:

Breakfast: Crackers (what? It’s a perfectly good breakfast 😉 ) -> 0 portions
Lunch: Orange juice -> 1 portion
Leftover enchiladas. I had half the amount I’d eaten the night before but I then had the other half for dinner since Jan didn’t eat his before he left for the weekend soooo….
Dinner: Leftover enchiladas. Dinner + lunch enchiladas combined -> 2½ portions
I ate my dinner enchilada with an avocado -> 2 portions
Snacks: An apple with almond purée -> 1 portion

Total: 6½ portions

So, what have I learned? Well, nothing that I didn’t already suspect: most of the time I fail to get up to 5 portions, never mind 10! I actually managed 5 portions 4 times (less than half the days *sigh), and all of those days were actually over the 5 (although once it was only over by half a portion!). I came closest to 10 portions on day 8 – should have replaced that brownie with an apple 😉

In the interests of full disclosure, I should tell you that I drank more juice this week than I usually would because I bought for breakfast when we had guests and I needed to get it used up, so apart from on day 3 (when I had a small carton) every day that I had juice I would normally have had one portion less. Usually I tend to shy away from juice because I feel calories that are used for drinks are wasted calories (mostly I drink water and tea – the tiny bit of milk in tea doesn’t make much difference to my calories). Juice is an easy way to get an additional portion though, so maybe I should consider drinking juice every day and getting extra exercise to make up for it? I do sometimes drink smoothies

So, what can I do to improve my fruit and veg intake? Well, apart from consistently drinking a glass of juice, I need to replace some of my pulses with other vegetables since I now know hardly any of them are allowed to count. There goes my lazy tuna pasta bake that doesn’t require me to chop any vegetables *sigh*. I could also replace most of my snacks with fruit – in February I ate an apple with almond paste most days, and that’s something I should probably try to get back into. An apple a day and replacing half the beans in meal with another vegetable would add two an extra portions and hopefully push those days that I do exceptionally badly at least up to the 5 mark! Finally, during these 10 days I ate leftovers for lunch three times (because Jan had forgotten to take them to work with him – which is why I ended up being left with 2 day old tuna pasta bake!). So another idea would be to make enough dinner for both of us to have some the next day and have leftovers for lunch more often instead of shoving some fish in the oven or eating a convenience meal containing few or no vegetables.

Do you eat 10 portions of vegetables a day? Would you be willing to take this challenge?

Check out Kezzie’s post for an example of someone doing a much better job at healthy eating 😉
And if you’ve actually read all this please feel free to award yourself a virtual gold star!

2017 aims (or something)

basel-rhine

As I mentioned, today is a public holiday in the part of Germany where I work. However, it is not in Switzerland (or at least not in Basel – I don’t know about other cantons), so I took advantage of having the place to myself to get rid of the chaos of Christmas. The decorations are down and have been put away, as have the Christmas papers, ribbons and other embellishments I was using for my cards. I’ve found homes for the last few gifts and even took away some of the glass recycling, which is usually difficult because both my lunch break and the time I finish for the day are during “quiet hours” when you’re not supposed to use the glass bins. Most productive use of my time.

With the final reminders of the holiday period gone, it seemed like a good time to finally start looking forward to 2017. I’m not making resolutions as such, but I do have a few aims… or maybe guidelines… that I want to bear in mind this year. So here they are. By the way, the photo at the top has nothing to do with anything, I just thought the post needed a photo…

  • Get regular exercise, even if it’s just walking into Basel more often instead of taking the tram (I did this today actually, so I’ve started well!). After spending all of October and part of November hobbling around, I was starting to feel a bit sloth-like, so this year I want to try and get out there and move!
  • Eat healthily most days. I don’t want to obsess about it, and if there happens to be cake on the days I have to go into the office I will definitely be having some! But I do want to try and fit in some vegetables every day and try to have some healthier breakfasts on hand (or eat breakfast at all!). My aim is to experiment with more vegetarian recipes at the beginning the year when I’m still motivated so I hopefully find a few quick and easy ones for later on when I can’t be bothered. A simple way of getting into the routine of having vegetables every day 🙂
  • Try not to stress over things I have no control over. What will be will be, and obsessing over things doesn’t make life any easier.
  • Spend more time with Jan without any screens being involved! Most of our evenings seem to end up with us either watching something (be it on TV or a DVD), Jan on his laptop doing more work or both of us sitting in the same room, but mainly looking at our respective devices. I want to try and have at least some time this year where we’re both in the flat and not looking at a screen! I think I’ll start by suggesting we try to eat at the table once or twice a week and go from there.

That’s basically it. Apart from that I plan to continue exploring Switzerland, keep cross stitching, read lots and basically just try to enjoy myself in the moment. With all the terrible things that happened in the world last year and that are set to continue this year (and I don’t mean celebrity deaths! There were many scarier things going on than that last year!) I want to try and keep my little corner of the world positive and happy place. Here’s hoping for good things this year!

Do you have any goals or resolutions for 2017? I hope it’s a fabulous year for all of you, whatever your plans.

Spiced apricot couscous salad

Couscous salad with smoked salmon fillet
Couscous salad with smoked salmon fillet

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe, so here’s what I had for tea last night. This tastes best if you use fresh apricots, but if you plan on making it any time soon you’ll need to use dried ones or tinned ones (if you’re lucky enough to be able to find the type that are in juice instead of syrup!).

This amount serves around 2-4 people, depending on appetites and what you serve with it (probably 2 if you just have the salad by itself, 3 or maybe 4 if you have something substantial on the side).

It’s really more of a dish for summer, when fresh apricots are around, but it was still pretty tasty with the dried kind.

Spiced Apricot Couscous Salad

Ingredients:

180g couscous
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp each ground cinnamon, ground cumin and ground ginger
80g apricots
1 small red onion
15g fresh mint
Approx. 15g fresh ginger
Handful of cashew nuts
Juice of 2 limes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Cook the couscous in accordance with the packet instructions. Add the spices, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper then fluff slightly with a fork and set it to one side to cool. Either place the pan lid on or cover with cling film while cooling.

    Spiced couscous
    Spiced couscous
  2. While the couscous is cooling, chop the onion, mint, fresh ginger and apricots and juice the limes.

    Chopped ingredients
    Chopped ingredients
  3. Add all the chopped ingredients plus a handful of cashew buts to the couscous. (I chopped the cashews in half, but you can leave them whole).

    Add the chopped ingredients to the couscous...
    Add the chopped ingredients to the couscous…
  4. Stir everything in well, then add the lime juice and stir that in as well. Taste test the couscous and add extra salt/pepper/spices to taste.

Tada – done! So quick and easy. I served mine with smoked salmon fillet, but it also goes well with grilled salmon or other types of fish. Chicken would probably be good with it as well, although I’ve never done that. And obviously whatever vegetarian/vegan alternative suits you.

For variations, you could add sultanas as well as the apricots (this is really nice – I just didn’t have any last night), replace the cashews with pine nuts or even add in pine nuts as well as the cashews. It’s really quite a versatile dish 🙂

35 Before 35: Baking – Spiced Oat Cookies

I mentioned in my latest photo an hour post that I had been baking healthy biscuits (cookies), partly because I was intrigued by the idea of making biscuits with apple sauce to replace the sugar and partly because I’ve only baked 4 out of 10 types of biscuits for my 35 before 35 challenge so far! The recipe in question was a BBC Food one by Anthony Worrall Thompson, which you can currently find here (until the BBC takes it down…)

Supposedly each biscuit has 82 calories, although I used butter rather than his “baking spread” (which is later referred to as plain old “margarine” in the actual method!), so I’m not sure whether that makes a difference. Plus I used wholemeal spelt flour rather than normal wholemeal flour because that’s all Aldi had. Also, I doubled the recipe because 12 didn’t seem like very many biscuits. This was my first batch:

Not meatballs, honest!
Not meatballs, honest!

As you can see, there are 15 on that tray. The second tray then contained 20 (I placed them closer together because I couldn’t be bothered with a third batch – turns out that wasn’t a problem as they barely spread anyway!).

I flattened them “slightly” just like Anthony said (the photo above is pre-flattening) and the end result came out like this:

(Yeah, my food photography skills are non-existent.) NOT very biscuit/cookie like! Next time I’ll just squish ’em properly flat before putting them in the oven!

The end result was not as spicy as they smelled – although after a few days in an air-tight container the spice has come out much more – and more savoury than sweet. You don’t notice the apple sauce at all! Also, they’re not particularly hard/crunchy. The texture is actually almost cake like (think Yorkshire Parkin without the stickiness). They’re still surprisingly moreish though – I had to put them away on Saturday to stop us eating them all before dinner!

I probably will make them again, but next time I plan to add some nuts, seeds and dried fruit and call them “muesli biscuits”. Then count that as one more towards the challenge because that will be a totally different biscuit, right?

Also, in the process of making these, I discovered that mixed spice is not a thing in Switzerland, then when I tried to make my own I discovered that Allspice is not a thing either (or rather the only kind I could get was some gourmet version that cost about 15 francs… for Allspice! What the hell?!)

So, that’s half of my types of biscuits baked. Woo hoo! Next up will presumably be something Christmassy unless I try out my muesli biscuit idea before then… watch this space.

July goals

I don’t usually do this kind of post, but this is supposed to be a place for me to gather my thoughts and what I’m thinking about right now is goals for the month 😉 Also, our internet has been flaky since we got home, which has kind of thrown a spanner in the works of the Vienna posts. It’s difficult to upload photos when the browser keeps telling you it’s unable to connect!

  • Complete the 30 Day Squat Challenge! I had to restart because I didn’t do any squats in Austria. I’m now back to day 4 and this time I actually want to finish it.
  • Be more careful with my money. I did waaaay too much online shopping last month (mostly buying books and summer clothes), and when I checked my bank balance just before we went to Austria I nearly had a heart attack. Of course, it didn’t help that the TV licence people took their money, which doesn’t happen every month. In July, I need to budget better and actually have some money left when my brother comes to visit!
  • Lose 2 kg before my brother comes. That will put me 2 kg above what I weighed after I had my wisdom teeth out. I can’t believe I’ve actually put on 4 kg since then (almost back up to my original weight!) so I’m determined to get at least halfway back to that weight!
  • Complete the summer reading challenge. I should be able to read 2.5 books by the end of the month, right?
  • Eat fruit! I’m terrible at it because whenever I buy fruit it goes mouldy before I can consume any so I end up not bothering to buy any more. But this month I want to buy some and actually do something with it before it’s too late!

That’s all. Five things sounds like it should be doable. Especially since some of them I’ve already started anyway… I just need to actually stick with them this time!

 

Weigh-in Wednesday (The last time in my 20s!)

I know I’ve already posted today, but it is Wednesday and that means weigh-in time! You can just view the Goslar post as an added bonus…

chips
Naughty… but oh so gooood! (Photo credit: dangermain)

Well, I was doing really well with eating healthily and sticking to my calorie limit until yesterday, when I was just hungry all day! By the time I got to the pub for quiz night, there was no way I was going for the semi-healthy option of breaded chicken breast with salsa and salad. Nope… toasted sandwich and chips all the way! Despite that, my weight is down by 0.8 kg since last week and down 2.3 kg since I started using My Fitness Pal. So about 2 kg left to go until goal weight!

My body fat percentage has been up and down like a yoyo this week! This morning it was 29.6%, which is down on last week at least, although not exactly ideal. It was the chips that did it, obviously! 😉

Just look at those fluctuations!
Just look at those fluctuations!

Since last Thursday, I’ve been consistently measuring a waistline of 77 cm! Woo hoo. If it stays that way until my birthday I shall be very happy.

In terms of exercise, I have to confess I’ve been doing extremely badly, partly because I’ve been coming home in the evening then switching the computer on to do more work, but mostly because it’s just been far too hot! I managed some sit ups on Sunday, but that was it. Sorry, but I just can’t bring myself to work out when it’s 38°C outside… It’s cooled down a bit now though after yesterday’s thunder storm (which I got soaked in!), so hopefully it will stay like this and I’ll be able to do a few work outs!

Next weigh in will be the day after my birthday, so we’ll see what damage a day of not caring what I eat and drink does for my progress 😉