A Few of my Favourite Things 2016

Personal review posts of the outgoing year are becoming more popular and I enjoy reading them, particularly those produced by my peers.

However, when I wrote mine earlier this week I purposely left some stuff out as it didn’t seem to fit properly.

It’s a list of things that I’ve used – or removed – this year that have in some way made a high impact on my life. Turns out they are mostly food or diet related so I’ve lumped them all together, into a little addendum to my main review.

Food & diet

The past couple of years have seen my diet change beyond recognition. Here’s a few of the dietary related things that have made a major difference to me.

Smoothies

I’ve raved about smooties in the past. When I started out using mine it was because they were a great way of getting fresh fruit & veg into my diet by stealth. As my taste buds and the things my body craved for changed, I no longer needed smoothies for the stealth factor but due to the convenience they still play a large part of my day to day.

Most weekday mornings I’ll go out for a run or do some exercise before breakfast. Then, as I’m heading out of the door for the school run I’ll make a smoothie and that ‘meal’ means I’ll not need to eat again until lunchtime, even if I’m training really hard.

Mrs B spent the last 12 months or so politely saying no to having me make her one – read: making gagging noises and muttering about ‘cold soup’ – but after actually trying one I now have to make 2 every morning!

They are quick, convenient and it’s one meal where you know exactly what has gone into it.

My breakfast recipe (makes a 600ml smoothie):

  • 2 desert spoons chia seeds, pre-soaked in water for at least an hour. I normally start this off the night before or just as I’m heading out for a run
  • 1 carrot roughly chopped
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 frozen spinach lumps
  • very generous spoon of 100% peanut butter (buy the big tubs from places like Holland & Barrett)
  • frozen fruit / berries (tip: the fruit being frozen means the whole thing tastes more like a milkshake)
  • water

Chia Seeds

If you run, you’ve probably read Born to Run; it’s a really interesting book and a great yarn.

The real stars of the book are the Tarahumara for whom running long distances seems to be a way of life. In the book their magic recovery drink is mentioned which it turns out is based on Chia seeds. They look like mustard seeds but when soaked in water they start to turn the water gloopy and look a bit like mini frog spawn.

I was getting fed up with eggs for breakfast every day but looking to get more protein, so combined with the smoothie, Chia seeds seemed a no-brainer.

I can’t attribute a massive uptick in my pace after using them for a over a year, but I can say that they are a compact and easy to administer source of protein (and anecdotally my smoothies do keep me going all morning)

Lack of meat

As a family we stopped eating meat 3 months ago, though my eldest daughter has been veggie for about 6 years.

Because: reasons. I’ll not list them out here, but suffice it to say that they are varied and we’ve been considering going meat-free for a while.

I’ve been a raging carnivore all of my life, so much so that a meal without meat in it didn’t really seem like food. But as my diet improved through all of the wholefood cooking we were doing, meat started becoming optional.

The final push for me was wanting to get even better at cooking. Chucking some meat into a dish was starting to feel a bit like cheating with the salt; a season all. I figured if I could make lots of delicious meat-free meals then I was really getting better as a chef.

I’m not saying I’ll never eat meat again, I may also decide to eat fish. But for now I am 100% flesh-free (though not vegan).

Specifically: lack of cow

When experimenting with removing certain foods from our diets – particularly gluten – we also cut out cow based products, namely milk and *sob* cheese.

Cutting out the cow for me has been the highest impact change I’ve made. I definitely feel less bloated for it. If I forget & grab a rare latte I’ll definitely feel uncomfortable for the next few hours.

The two things I’ve ‘discovered’ that made the cow-free transition possible are:

Green tea

I rarely drink anything else hot now. I even carry a few bags with me so if someone offers me a drink I can have one. I like the taste, they pep me up. There’s not much more else to say really.

Feta Cheese

I eat a fair bit of this. It works great in salads, cooking and for a cheeky snack on a crispbread or something.

With Feta in my life I don’t miss hard cheese.

Consistent, non-faddy diet

Nutrition is a minefield. So many faddy diets, where to start?

I did a fair amount of reading, speaking to health professionals, other people who work their bodies hard, people who have lost weight, that random woman on an internet forum, personal trainers and the conclusion I drew was that low(er) carb, higher (good) fat diet was the way to go.

The more complex (and less processed) the carbohydrates are, the longer they’ll take to break down into energy. You’ll get less energy spikes and feel fuller for longer. This is things like brown rice or pasta, as well as the carbs you can get from veg.

I no longer a default to have carbs in every meal and I rarely eat sandwiches.

For the record I’m not religious about anything I eat. If I am craving a pizza I’ll have one, ditto a crisp sandwich or a cheeky pastie. But importantly it’s not anywhere near as often I used to and I’m doing so with my eyes wide open. I know what I’m eating and how to balance it out with more good stuff.

Also, don’t get me started on how difficult it is to eat well, particularly without carbs, when travelling!

Stuff

A few luxuries that have added value to my life this year.

Smoothie maker

(See above)

I use the cheapest machine I could find, the Breville one which you can pick up for around £20.

The particularly great thing about this one is that you do all of your whizzing in the bottle you’ll be drinking from. This means just the blade needs a quick rinse before you rush out of the door.

Oofos Recovery Footwear

(Posh flip flops)

They provide support under the arches and are supremely comfortable. Slipping these on after running for an hour or two is such a relief.

Merino Buff

Not new or revolutionary but I use mine constantly (I have 3). For running, walking, working in the garden and when travelling and not wanting to carry lots of extra stuff like hats and scarves.

Collapsible Lunch Boxes

(The silicone ones, something like this)

Such a genius idea, and well executed. Free up space in your bag after consuming the contents and – equally as important – take up less space in the cupboard when not being used.


That was quick run-down of things that have had a positive impact on my life this year.

Have there been any things, whether dietary or material, that have have made a difference to your life? If so please feel free to share below.