Here comes the light!

Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap

Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The winter solstice has past, meaning the sun is on its return! Though I enjoy being indoors with my husband, cozy and warm in our house, I prefer the days to be longer. Many of you will probably experience the same problems I have getting out of bed in the morning. In summer, I can be up at 7 (not that I do), but in winter I have to get up at 8 and I’m still sluggish at 9. All creatures seem to have that, though, saving energy. When I’m snug in my bed, I can totally imagine retreating for the winter.

But, on the other hand, it’s so nice outside! The most beautiful images of the dawn with the sun so low. When we have snow (which we haven’t had yet and probably only will have in the new year), it’s a winter wonderland outside. It reminds me of paintings by Pieter de Bruegel. I want to go ice skating, build a snowman, throw snowballs and really generally have a good time! Which I will, no matter what.

The best part of Yule and Christmas alike is spending time with your family. Tightening the bonds whilst sitting together by the Christmas tree. Exchanging gifts and (for us) celebrating my grandmother’s birthday. Enjoying the food everyone brought, but not for the food itself, but for it being made by your family and eaten together.

So light the candles and enjoy the season! Brightest blessings!

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Dieting vs healthy food choice

Many people who want to lose weight try to stick to a diet. This involves restricting your intake, sometimes quite rigorously such as with shake-based diets. Many of these people start out with good intentions, obviously, but find that once they start eating normal again, they put on the weight they have lost and sometimes even more! This jojo effect is because your body metabolism is effectively altered when you restrict your intake. Especially when you limit your calorie intake rigorously, your body gets used to that and starts to save energy. That means it wants to store the energy you take in, because apparently there are difficult times where you have hunger, but you need power for your daily activities. If you go into this saving mode, eating regularly will cause you to put on weight faster, simply because your body wants to store that energy in case there are times of hunger coming again.

In my opinion, restricting diets make no sense as you deprive your body not only of energy but also of nutrients you need to stay healthy. What works better is to simply choose to eat healthier, not less per se. It is not about restricting your intake, but about changing your intake. Yes, it will take longer, because it involves a change in lifestyle, permanently, and permanent change is difficult. You will not see results right away, but what you lose will stay off, so don’t be discouraged! Mrs Healthy Ever After has taken up this challenge when she got married, and it’s paying off, so check out what she thinks 😉

There are so many things you can change! What my husband and I really need to do is limit our intake of chocolate, changing it to healthier snacks of fruit (which I can do, but my husband is more reluctant and, admittedly, I LOVE chocolate, so it’s not that easy for me either). When you get the munchies, often you are not really hungry, you don’t need food technically speaking. It is just that you like the taste or that, as some have argued more recently, that you are addicted to sugar as you can get addicted to alcohol and drugs.

Some things advocated by most dietitians:
Eat lots of veggies! In the Netherlands, it is advised to eat 200-250 grams of veggies per day and really, it fills more per calorie you take in than meats. Because it is quite a lot to eat during one meal, you could spread it and eat some veggies at lunch too (lettuce and bell pepper on your sandwich, a salad with veggies etc.) or snack with carrots, cucumber or tomatoes.
Vary what you eat! Different foods contain different nutrients, and your body needs all. Healthy choices are low in saturated fats and salt (which you can find on the label with nutritional information). And a very simple rule for vegetables: different colour vegetables contain different nutrients, so you can easily vary with differently coloured veggies.

Apart from this, I really prefer home cooking. Making meals from scratch doesn’t have to take that much longer than preparing pre-packaged food, and it’s often healthier. And tastes better! You can make lovely dinners and lunch at home, and feel better eating it, perhaps also because you put in more effort to make it. Remember how everyone says ‘made with love’ and how you can taste that? Well, it’s true! So do try it out. You can expand that and make things for your store cupboard as well. Jams, pesto, hazelnut spread and snacks are easily made. I always watch Mind over Munch (fighting the munchies when I see that delicious food prepared), which demonstrated how you can prepare guilt-free food that tastes great.

So in my opinion it’s way better to make healthy choices related to food, based on you personally, rather that following restricting diets. But don’t toss away the books: there are often very nice recipes in them. Just that (IMO) you shouldn’t follow diets doesn’t mean they are completely useless. Perhaps combining recipes from all the different diets out there also constitutes a healthy food pattern.

Healthy sports canteen

Every year, our club hosts an international korfball tournament with over 150 people from the Netherlands, Germany and Great Britain. A great weekend, because the English arrive on Friday, so it’s almost a three day event (there’s a smaller tournament for the first teams on Sunday, and last year we had youth games on Friday evening).  All these people spend at least one day playing match after match. In the sun today, though that has been different some other years.

 

French Fries

French Fries (Photo credit: fritish)

Playing sports is healthy, we are all aware of that. In a healthy lifestyle, exercise ought to play a part, as ought a balanced diet. But, weirdly enough, those two aren’t always combined. Have you played organized sports? Then you have probably enjoyed a beer and french fries or something similar in your canteen. Many teams enjoy the third half, consisting of alcohol and socializing, more than the game they play. And little children? Sweet drinks and candy. That’s not very healthy, is it? But it’s something that happens everywhere.

 

Some people (like me) bring their own food. I like to eat grapes on match days, or an apple, and I bring my own sandwiches. Not because I don’t like panini’s or fries (they also have regular sandwiches in our canteen, with today a healthy choice of salmon), but because I think what I eat is healthier. Especially the fruits, cause we don’t sell any fresh fruit, or canned fruit for that matter. And it’s such a shame! When I have my grapes with me, it’s always more than I can eat myself, but I barely ever have anything left. Simply because other like to help me finish it. It’s not that people don’t want healthy food in the canteen, it’s because there is barely anything available. Unhealthy is the easy choice! And that’s not the way it should be.

 

Some things will probably never change. If we try to ditch the beer, people will riot, definitely. But we could limit the times we sell beer. And for the food and snacks, we can offer healthy alternatives. Place the crisps out of sight and have a fruit basket with apples and bananas, or small boxes with grapes (I’d love that). If you place something in sight, it’s already way more appealing. Have sugar-free chewing gum and add some low-calorie drinks to the assortment. Without a doubt, there will be people who chose the healthy option.

 

It’s a difficult fight for a healthy sports canteen. You can try asking for certain products if you can’t get them at the moment, or if you don’t have any direct influence on the buying. Another option is to start a petition: ask around whether other people might like a change in assortment as well. And if nothing works? Just bring your own healthy food!

 

A healthy BBQ

blogalong buttonFirst of all: I have committed myself to posting every day in August. This is more than I have accomplished in the past year, but I want to start again, and the blogalong with Effy might just provide me with a new start and a way to find out what I really want to write about.

Healthy living is a big issue nowadays, with obesity rates increasing in both adults and children. With the temperature approaching 37 degrees centigrade and not a cloud in the sky, many people in the Netherlands have chosen today or the weekend for an easy outdoor barbecue. My uncle, who is a butcher, and my cousin recently went to visit family in Canada and rejoiced in a typical Canadian barbecue with half a cow on the roster. Meat, meat, and some more meat. In the past, most barbecues were hosted for carnivores such as my uncle. Meat lovers, and since men traditionally tend to the barbecue, meat was all we got.

Luckily this is changing. I like my piece of meat with every meal, but one piece is quite enough as I enjoy my veggies as well. Though not everyone realizes it yet, a barbecue is also perfect for all sorts of vegetables and even fruits, making it much healthier compared to a traditional BBQ. Read on for a few suggestions for a real, healthier summer barbecue.

  • Instead of stuffing yourself with baguette and garlic butter while you wait for the meat, try  a lighter bread with tzatziki or even better, make a salad to start off with.
  • Do you always have big chunks of meat over the fire? If you put smaller pieces on skewers it’s easier to cook and you can add vegetables between the meat. I particularly like a beef skewer with paprika in different colours.
  • Courgette, eggplant, corn, paprika, just a few of the veggies you can easily grill on the barbecue. If you want smaller veggies, wrap it up in some tin foil with a few herbs and spices and put it on the barbecue indirectly for 10-15 minutes.
  • You can use the BBQ for lovely fruity deserts. Make fruit kebabs with mango or strawberries to put on the grill, have slices of pineapple you heat a bit to bring out the sweetness even more or put half a peach on the grill and drizzle with honey once it’s on your plate. Possibilities are endless!
  • Finally: pay attention to the sauces you serve. Peanut sauce and mayonnaise pack a lot of calories (even though they taste very good). Go with red sauces such as ketchup and sweet chili sauce or try yogurt-based sauces. These can add a lot of flavour as well. Though you might need less if you marinate the meat to add taste 😉

Though I hope it will cool down a bit, the weather will stay good for a BBQ for quite some time. Enjoy!