How to Make Time for Meditation

If you are searching for a way to bring peace into your life whilst better equipping yourself to deal with stress and anxiety, then meditation could be exactly the tonic you’re searching for. When meditation is combined with mindful eating and regular exercise, you’ll rapidly see positive changes to both your physical health and your mental well-being.

Although many people understand the amazing benefits of meditation, many find it difficult to find the time to do so. However, once you find a way to incorporate meditation into your schedule, you’ll quickly regret not doing so sooner!

If you are keen to include meditation in your life but don’t know where to start then following my simple steps can guide you on your way.

First of all, it is essential to have a space that is dedicated to your meditation. This doesn’t have to be a large space and could simply be an uncluttered corner of your bedroom. Take the time to make this space as comfortable as possible and also to include any objects that you own that are of particular spiritual significance to you. The inclusion of pleasant smelling incense or candles will help to complete this space and help your senses on their way to seeking relaxation.

Secondly, make a mental note that making the time to meditate once a day, regardless of the length of time, is a priority. Allow this thought to linger in the back of your mind throughout the day but try not to dwell on it. You will often find that the opportunity to meditate will present itself without you having to look too hard for it. No two days in your life are ever going to be exactly the same so don’t be too concerned with meditating at the same time of day for the same amount of time. Allow yourself to be flexible and you’ll find you’re much more likely to stick to your practice.

Many people find that meditating in the morning is the best way to prepare for the upcoming day. Stating a lack of time as the only reason that you don’t meditate in the morning is a redundant excuse! If you have time to snooze your alarm for half an hour or spend 20 minutes in the mirror trying to get your hair just right, then you certainly have time to meditate! Make the time to include meditation in your morning routine and you’ll be supercharged and super-focused throughout the morning and into the day!

If you live in a busy, chaotic household with others and find it difficult to get time alone, then try inviting those around you to meditate with you! Once you’ve gotten into the rhythm of this relaxing but extremely beneficial practice, extending and explaining your new found passion to others will be no difficult feat and your household will be calmer because of it!

Almond and Red Lentil Stew

The great thing about lentils, compared to other legumes, is that they don’t require any pre-soaking before you cook with them! This means that you can whip up this stew with minimal fuss and preparation. Lentils are also fantastic because they are generally inexpensive whilst also being high in protein, vitamins, minerals and fibre but also virtually free from fat! What’s not to love?! Additionally, a cup serving of red lentils contains an impressive 6 milligrams of iron. The average woman needs around 18 milligrams of iron everyday whereas men need only 8, so a cup of lentils helps everyone to be well on the way to reaching this quota!

almond and red lentil stew2To cook this stew up for yourself, you’ll need the following ingredients:

2 Tbsp of coconut oil
1 carrot, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 sweet potato, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
250g of red lentils
2 pints vegetable stock
A tsp of dry coriander
A handful almonds

To get started making this stew, the first thing you’ll need to do is heat the coconut oil in a large pan. You can then fry the carrot, leek, onion, garlic and sweet potato in the coconut oil until it has softened. At this point you can then add the lentils in to the pan. The next step is to pour the two pints of vegetable stock into the pan and then add the coriander. Bring this to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 45 minutes. Just before the end of the cooking time for the stew, in another pan, fry the almonds in a splash of coconut oil for two minutes. You can then serve the lentil stew with the almonds and tomatoes.

Why it’s Okay to Cry

For many people apologising for their negative emotions is an instinctive response. We are told from a young age that we shouldn’t cry or express anger and that is an incredibly damaging concept! If we can’t express our sadness or our anger then these emotions remain inside of us, causing us unnecessary harm. We are told, as children, that crying is a sign of weakness and that we need to “suck it up” and be strong. However, it is important to be aware that crying isn’t a sign of weakness, it is a natural response to certain emotions and situations.

Not passing this negativity on to our own children is incredibly important if we are to teach them how to understand and process their emotions. Teaching them that crying is shameful is detrimental to their emotional development and will cause them to associate sadness with shame. Creating an environment in which our children feel safe and able to cry is an essential part of creating a loving environment for them to thrive.

In order to eradicate this negative association from our own lives, both for our own benefit and also to prevent psychological damage to our children, we must work to embrace our pain and anxieties. Allowing yourself compassion is the best way to extend your compassionate thoughts to others and to break the cycle of shame.

When you’re in a situation that makes you feel like crying, it’s important to remember that it’s totally okay to do so! Trying to stem your tears will cause you to lose focus of your emotions and lessen your ability to deal with the problem constructively. There are several additional reasons that you might not want to express your emotions with crying, such as being in public or the fear of making someone else uncomfortable. However, we have to be aware of the fact that everyone else around us is human too! Everybody has, at some time, felt what you are feeling and nobody is going to show any negativity towards you for simply expressing your emotions!

By first undoing the damage that has been done to us by acknowledging that there is no shame in crying, we can move towards accepting our emotions! It is only then that we will be equipped to navigate upsetting situations with a clear head, resulting in a more satisfying solution!

How Affirmations Aid Yoga Practice

Using affirmations during your yoga practice is a great way to encourage yourself to reach new levels, both physically and mentally. If you’re not familiar with affirmations then let me introduce you! They are simply short but powerful statements which help you to gain control of your conscious thoughts. You can either say these statements out loud or repeat them to yourself in your mind – either way the aim is to create a thought process then then becomes your reality!

On average, we each have between 45,000 and 51,000 thoughts every day (which is between 150 to 300 thoughts every minute). Studies into our thought processes have shown that around 80% of these thoughts tend to be negative!

When you’re engaging in exercise, such as yoga, it is particularly useful if you have a stream of positive thoughts flowing through your mind. This is because positive thoughts help us to perform better and also help us to believe that we can achieve the things we are striving for in that moment. Whereas exercise accompanied by negative thoughts will leave us feeling unmotivated and reluctant to push through the pain to reach our goals.

Taking action in this instance is easily done by taking control of your thoughts, and that is something that is within everyone’s reach. Choosing the affirmations that you are going to say to yourself does not have to be complicated and you can even have a short list of affirmations that you can take inspiration from each day for a yoga session. They don’t necessarily even have to be specific to yoga or exercise related at all.

With your affirmations, it is important to occasionally focus on how every small step that you are taking is a stride towards your goals. Opting for affirmations that encourage this idea, such as, “every day, in every way, I am becoming fitter and healthier”, or “with every twist and every pose my body is becoming stronger”.  However, repeating affirmations that are more general to life and continued progress are also beneficial for an improved state of mind and better yoga practice.

The next time you approach the yoga mat, be sure to have one or two positive affirmations in mind. Use these affirmations throughout your session, not just when a particular pose starts to feel difficult. Constant encouragement will keep your mind focused and help to prevent feelings of negativity – making it much more likely that you’ll enjoy and benefit from your session!

Smoked Paprika, Black Beans and Sprouting Broccoli Salad

Purple sprouting broccoli is generally at its best in the spring months so now is a great time to make the most of it in your cooking! This kind of broccoli brings an amazing combination of colour and crunch to a dish and is also, of course, rammed full of nutrients. The high vitamin and mineral count of broccoli, coupled with its exciting antioxidant count, make it an all round winner for your health.

Paprika is amongst my favourite spices but not one that I use all that often! Including paprika in a dish is such a great way to boost the flavour of that meal and it packs a subtle spicy punch without completely dominating the existing taste. As well as containing a range of vitamins, paprika also has a healthy dose of iron which is essential for carrying oxygen around the body.

To quickly whip up this salad for four to six people, gather the following ingredients:

250g of purple sprouting broccoli
1 x 400g of tinned black beans, drained and rinsed
2 spring onions, thinly diced
1 avocado, cut into small chunks
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. honey

For the dressing:

A handful of coriander
A small handful of almonds, ideally soaked for a few hours but don’t worry if not!
Juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp. almond milk

broccoli_sprouted_salad_flexi_foodie

So the first thing you need to do is bring a large pot of water to the boil and cook the broccoli for five minutes. Be careful not to over cook the broccoli so that you don’t lose any of the nutrients. After these five minutes are up, you should drain and rinse. Next, in a frying pan over a medium heat, combine the drained and rinsed black beans and then add in the smoked paprika, cumin and honey. You can then stir this together well and cook for five minutes.

In a large bowl, you can then combine the sprouting broccoli, seasoned black beans, spring onions and avocado. And finally, combine the dressing ingredients in your food processor and blend. It will be a lovely, chunky dressing (tastes great too!) that you can coat the broccoli and bean salad well with. This is one of my favourite salads of all time!

Ask Questions About Your Health to Stay Healthy!

For some people getting ill can be a common occurrence. However, some people get ill so infrequently that symptoms of illness can really catch them off-guard. A lot of people will tell you that they know their bodies so well that they are aware as soon as something starts to feel off; but that’s not the case with everyone!

For those people who aren’t incredibly in-tune with their bodies, asking questions about their health becomes all the more important. When other people ask us questions about our general well-being, such as doctors or family members, then we might not always feel comfortable going into great detail. This can be because of embarrassment about a certain ailment or just the basic desire for privacy. However, when we are asking ourselves these questions there’s absolutely no reason not to be 100% honest. Having said that, you should always be sure to give your doctor all of the information they request!

Asking yourself questions about your health and general well-being can help you to stay on top of any problems that might be developing – regardless of how insignificant they turn out to be!

If, for instance, you feel like your body is reluctant to function the way it usually does, then it’s important to take the time to consider why that might be. Ask yourself what it is your body is saying no to and how you can resolve that issue. Are you eating differently? Are you not getting enough rest? Compile a checklist of usual behaviours and see if any variations have emerged. Your body wants to talk to you and will often communicate in very subtle ways when something isn’t quite as it should be. The longer a problem remains undetected, the louder your body will try to talk to you.

Asking questions about your mental well-being is also important for maintaining optimum physical fitness. Feeling lonely or unhappy can lead to negative behaviours which can then become detrimental to your health on the whole. So, check in with your mind frequently and take positive steps to overcome any issues that you discover.

Your sex life also has a role to play in your overall health. Studies have shown that a healthy sex life can actually lower your risk of certain conditions, such as strokes and heart disease, whilst also helping to alleviate chronic pain and depression. A healthy sex life can also help to lower stress which makes it incredibly useful in our busy modern age of anxiety. Check in on your sex life occassionally to ask yourself if you are satisfied and if not, why not?If there are certain things that you are unhappy with that are within your power to change then make it a priority for your health and for your happiness.

Mung Bean Dahl

This dish has a lovely long list of fresh, wholesome ingredients which come together to create a traditionally Indian dish with my personal variations. Dahl is typically made with a combination of lentils and other pulses added together with a range of spices to enhance the flavour and the nutrition! When cooking a dahl, it’s advisable to leave it to do so for a long time to allow the consistency to become just right, so making this dish will take approximately one hour.

Mung beans are one of the most nutrient dense legumes and are also remarkably low in calories. Mung beans are high in dietary fibre and a relatively small serving can quickly leave you feeling full! They are a great choice to include in your diet if you are looking for a food that is high in protein without all that nasty cholesterol! The herbs and spices which are used also pack a healthy punch and bring a unique taste to this dish.

To make enough of my dahl to feed four to six people, find the following ingredients:

200g of mung beans
Coconut oil for frying
2 small onions, finely chopped
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. black mustard seeds
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. chilli powder
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 Tbsp. tomato puree
1 tin x 400g chopped tomatoes
1 litre veggie stock
Coriander, to garnish
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

mung_bean_dahl_the_flexi_foodie2In a large pan, over a medium to high heat, melt a tablespoon of coconut oil. Once this has melted, add the onions, garlic, ginger and all of the spices and saute for approximately five minutes until the onion is soft. Next, add the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, mung beans and veggie stock.

Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer for 45 minutes. After this amount of time the mung beans should be soft. With a potato masher, begin to mash the mung beans so that roughly half have been mashed. You can then serve into dishes, season with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped coriander.

Love this recipe? Then check out more in my first cookboook! SUPERFOODS: The Flexible Approach to Eating More Superfoods.

Learn to Love Your Body

Experiencing negative thoughts about our bodies is something that happens to every one of us. When it comes to our appearance, self-doubt is a concept that has become next to natural as we’re constantly bombarded by mass-media creations of what perfect is. This doubt about your body can quickly build a negativity that will lead to self-doubt in other areas of your personal and professional life.

You might often find yourself thinking that certain situations or opportunities are influenced by your perception of your body. For example, “Did I miss out on that promotion because I don’t look the part” or “Would my relationship be better if I was ten pounds lighter”.

Overcoming this doubt can be a long process but it will lead you to a place of positivity where your body image no longer has an impact on your day to day life. Learning to love your body will mean that you are less susceptible to perceived criticism from other people in regards to the way that you look. But of course, that’s easier said than done so how can we all reach this point?

Affirmations are a great way to encourage a positive body image and should be something that you aim to work into your daily routine. Starting the day with a body positive affirmation and having a list that you can refer to throughout the day for encouragement is something I strongly advise! When you start to feel the negativity creeping in, you can say one or more of these affirmations out loud or in your head.

Focusing on the things you already love about your body is one of the best ways to eradicate unhappy thoughts about the things you wish to change. Everyday when you look in the mirror, focus your thoughts on one of these things and remind yourself why it is you chose that particular feature. Whether it’s your skin or your muscles or a part of your face, there has to be something about yourself that you do find attractive and this is a good start for spreading that love for yourself.

Finding an exercise regime that works for you, and continuing to fill your body with healthy foods that promote optimum wellness, are both important parts of self-care. By caring for yourself in these ways, you will help to grow the love you have for yourself and that will extend into love for your body also!

Why is Vitamin D Essential for Optimal Health?

As many of my clients are already aware, vitamin D is one of the only vitamin supplements that I often recommend people include. Getting an adequate amount of this vitamin is incredibly important and unfortunately many of us fail to do so! Experts have predicted that at least one billion people around the globe are deficient in this vitamin. A quick blood test will determine your vitamin D levels and an optimum range is between 50-80 ng/ml. On the other hand, it is also important not to overdose on vitamin D as excess amounts will remain in your system, often leading to high blood calcium levels, nausea and sometimes even kidney stones.

The main roles that vitamin D has in the body are to maintain bone mass, help the body to properly absorb calcium and also to protect against injury whilst also alleviating any musculoskelatal pain.

Your immune system is one of several aspects of your body that will benefit from optimum vitamin D levels. This is especially true if you are an athlete or if you are someone who engages in regular exercise. Strenuous workouts can have quite an impact on the body and keeping healthy is key to efficient recovery. Vitamin D helps to defend the body in this way and combats viruses.

Your brain will also benefit from this vitamin, with studies showing that cognitive function is improved as the damage caused by free radicals is reduced. Not only does this mean that your general brain activity in the present is optimised, but also that your risk of degenerative diseases becomes less. Alzheimer’s is one disease that is thought to have strong links to decreased levels of vitamin D.

Testosterone levels, in men and women, are directly influenced by the amount of vitamin D present in the body. In fact, those who are taking testosterone for hormone replacement therapy are generally advised to take a weekly dose of vitamin D in order to keep their levels of testosterone up. Testosterone plays a huge role in building and maintaining muscles and making sure vitamin D levels are adequate will aid this process.

As we can see, this is an extremely useful and essential aspect of our basic nutrition. The best ways to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D are to enjoy sufficient time outdoors in the sunlight, consume foods that are high in this vitamin and then also of course you can take supplements if you find the first two option aren’t hitting the quota.

If you feel like you might be lacking in any areas of your nutrition, then click to get a nutrition consultation!

Roasted Tomato and Sweet Potato Dip

Summer is just around the corner and that means picnics, barbeques and all manner of outdoor parties! The problem with going to so many of these events is that the food on offer can often be quite calorific! So, to avoid your waist-band increasing over the next few months, it’s a great idea to whip up your own dishes and dips to take with you. This doesn’t have to be a time consuming task and you can easily create a small selection of things to bring with you in under an hour. My Roasted Tomato and Sweet Potato Dip is just the thing for those summer days spent outside and goes well with practically everything!

Tomatoe and sweet potato in the same dish is a powerful fruit-veg combination. They are both full of antioxidants as well as their own range of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. A fun fact about tomatoes is that certain aspects of their nutritional value actually improves as they are cooked! When tomatoes are heated in the cooking process, the amount of lycopene, which is a chemical compound contained within, is increased. This beneficial compound is known to be effective in protecting the body against cancer and is also just useful for all round health!

So to get your summer off to a healthy start, gather the following ingredients:

8 vine tomatoes
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 spring onions, chopped
A large handful of coriander
2 Tbsp. of olive oil
1 Tbsp. of honey
Salt and pepper

roasted tomato and sweet potato dip2So to get started, pre-heat your oven to 180C and roast the tomatoes until the skins start to peel away (which should be after about 15-20 minutes). You should then remove the skins and allow the tomatoes to cool. In the same oven (even at the same time!), peel and bake your two sweet potatoes. I advise creating a few holes in the potatoes with a fork before you place them in the oven. The sweet potatoes will take a bit longer to cook than the tomatoes and you should give them about 25-30 minutes. After this time they should be adequately soft. Once they are ready, remove and allow to cool.

Once the tomatoes are cooled, peel away the skin and discard. Then you can place the tomatoes, chopped spring onions, coriander, olive oil, honey and salt and pepper into a food processor. Once the sweet potatoes are cooled, cut into chunks and add to the mix. Whizz until mixed well – close to the consistency of a puree. And voila, you have a gorgeous, easy dip to serve to your family or guests! Cut some chunky rye, spelt, wholewheat bread and top with the dip. Delicious!

For more healthy recipes like this one, head over to Amazon to buy my cookbook!