Meal plans

Ideas and inspiration for your family meal plans

Bonfire Parkin Recipe and this week’s meal plan

bonfire parkin recipe meal plan


Hello Everybody,

Happy Guy Fawkes/Bonfire night!

Oh dear, it’s been a while since I’ve written a post for you.  The reason – well, there isn’t one really!.  You know, sometimes life just gets in the way.

I’ve been busy with my ‘day job’ plus spending time with the kids over half term.  At times like this, it would be very easy for me to wallow in feelings of failure but I know this will just make the problem worse.  If I allow a failure mindset to take hold,  I know I won’t take any steps to get on with motivating myself to take action.

If you are struggling with making lifestyle changes, then I’m sure you’ve experienced a similar problem.  It’s very easy to ‘fall off the wagon’ when making changes, and then feel it’s just not worth going on because you’ve failed.

If you are facing this problem, then the best approach to take is to just shrug your shoulders, recognise that things didn’t quite go to plan and then pick yourself up and crack straight back on with your goals.  We only fail if we don’t try again.

Whilst I was spending time with the kids yesterday, I made some Bonfire Parkin and thought I would share the recipe with you.

Parkin is a sticky, ginger cake that originates from Yorkshire and Lancashire.  It’s usually eaten around this time of year as a Bonfire treat.  It’s believed the recipe dates back to Pagan times, when baking with oats and spices was part of the celebration of the start of winter.

Bonfire Parkin Recipe

bonfire parkin recipe


100g dark brown sugar

150g plain flour

150g porridge oats or oatmeal

3 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

100g butter

3 tablespoons golden syrup

150ml milk


  1. Grease and line a 20 cm square baking tin.
  2. Preheat the oven to 130°C/250°F
  3. Place all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir together well.
  4. Place the butter and syrup into a pan and gently melt over a low heat.
  5. Pour the syrup and butter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well.  Then add in the milk to form a runny batter.
  6. Pour the batter into the baking tin and bake for about 1 hour to 1¼ hours or until the cake is firm to the touch.  Don’t open the oven door for the first hour, or the cake won’t rise.
  7. Leave the cake to cool in the baking tin.  When cool, wrap in foil or place in a storage tin for about 2 hours before slicing.  Parkin does improve with time if kept wrapped in foil or in a cake tin for 2-3 days.

Enjoy by the Bonfire with a hot chocolate!


this week's meal plan

This week’s meal plan:-

I haven’t posted a meal plan for a while.  I’d love to know whether these meal plans help with your meal ideas for the family.  Let me know in the comments or on my InstagramFacebook Page

  • Crumbed chicken, sweet potato wedges and veggies
  • Chinese roasted pork, stir fried veggies and rice
  • Shepherds pie
  • Chorizo and mushroom pasta
  • Pork with peanut butter and sweet potatoes, rice and green veggies
  • Creamy chicken pasta bake
  • Baked salmon, potatoes and veggies


Wishing you all a wonderful week.

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5 Quick tricks to help you eat less and this week’s meal plan


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quick tricks to help you eat less

5 Quick tricks to help you eat less

Over the summer my food intake has certainly increased.  All those little treats you allow yourself because “you’re on holiday” can soon become an everyday habit.

The problem with small increases in food intake is that they soon add up and you begin putting on weight, especially if you’re not moving more to compensation – me completely!

However, the same is true if you make small decreases here and there in your food intake.  Over time these changes help to reduce any possible weight gain and could even help you reduce weight.

Of course, you could make a radical change i.e. drastic diet and probably see some immediate results.  The problem with this strategy is that we usually can’t sustain it and invariably slip back into our old habits.  This is why drastic diets never work long term.

So, I recommend implementing a few simple tweaks to your eating habits to get you started.  These are changes that are hardly noticeable in your day to day life but they soon become everyday habits that you do without thinking.

1. Change your plate size

Dinner plates have been getting bigger and bigger.  Some plates, particularly in restaurants can measure up to 12″/30cms.  Change your plate size to no bigger than 10″/25cms.  This small change could reduce your food intake over a year by 22% (source: Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think – Dr Brian Wansink)

If you want to really reduce your food intake then you could try using a side plate, which usually measure around 8″/20cms.

The reason this small change works is because you are tricking your brain into thinking you are still enjoying a full portion of food.

Small portions of food on a large plate make you feel as if you are depriving yourself.  However, the same portion of food on a small plate looks larger and your brain feels more satisfied that it’s eating a full size meal.

2. Fill half your plate with vegetables first

When you are dishing food out onto your plate, fill half the plate first with salad or vegetables.  The other half of the plate should be a quarter of protein and a quarter of carbohydrates, with a small portion of healthy fats.

If half your plate is already stacked with salad or vegetables you will automatically reduce the amount of foods you place on the other half.  This is a really important trick to use at ‘all you can eat buffets’ or carveries if you are dining out.

3. Change the colour of your plates

Research suggests that when we use white plates, foods such as popular carbohydrates like rice, pasta and potatoes become lost against the white background.  This increases the chances of overloading our plates with these foods as we find it harder to judge our portion size.

If you pick a coloured plate, particularly green or blue, the contrast against the ‘white’ carbohydrates helps you assess your portion size.  Conversely, green vegetables don’t stand out so well on blue and green plates so you pile these portions higher – a healthy result!.

I’m currently using these plates from  Mason Cash:

4. Make healthy foods in the home prominent

I’ve talked about this before in my super size challenge post


Make your fruit bowl visible and accessible – either on your kitchen worktop or your dinner table.  Whenever you are feeling peckish or if you are in a rush to go out, you are much more likely to pick up a piece of fruit.

To make this work though you also need to hide away the cookie jar and unhealthy snacks.  The harder it is to see and access them, the less you will choose them.  If you are really struggling with sugar cravings, I would go so far as to say don’t even have them in the house.  Temptation is everywhere outside our homes.  Human beings have limited amounts of willpower.  The best place to control your environment is in your home.  Reduce all the temptations in this zone so that you only need to rely on your willpower once you leave the house.

5. Drink more water

Often we crave food simply because we are dehydrated.  It’s really important to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

When we are dehydrated we feel weak and fatigued and are much more likely to cave into the temptations of unhealthy food.

The NHS recommends we should drink about 6-8 glasses of liquids or 1.2 litres per day.  This can include water, low fat milk and sugar free drinks like tea and coffee.

Invest in a beautiful water bottle to keep with you at all times, particularly on your desk at work.   Work out how much water your bottle holds and then how many refills you need to maintain your recommended 1.2 litres.  Pop a rubber band around your bottle for each refill you require.  Each time you refill your bottle, you can remove a band.  This will help you keep on track with your goal each day.

This week’s meal plan:

  • Balsamic and green bean salad with salmon and sweet potato wedges
  • Roast Pork with a pistachio stuffing, vegetables and roast potatoes
  • Breaded chicken fillets and salad
  • Chilli con carne
  • Spicy stir fried pork with rice (left overs from roast)
  • Indian chicken curry and rice
  • Chicken pie, mashed potatoes and vegies


Wishing you all a wonderful week.  Don’t forget to hop on over to my Facebook Page or Instagram page and let me know what changes you are making to your everyday habits.

You can also sign up for my regular New Leaf Newsletter here to receive up date information, recipes and tips.


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Fibre, a super fibre fruit loaf recipe & this week’s meal plan

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fibre and fruit loaf recipe


Hello Everybody,

I hope you’ve had a great week and relaxing weekend.

This week I want to talk about:-


If you’re of a certain age like me, then you might remember the food fad of the 80’s and 90’s was fibre, principally marketed by cereals such as All Bran, which tasted rather like shredded cardboard boxes.

But, the food fad for fibre was an extremely important one which is currently being undermined by the anti-carbs trends of the moment.

Fibre is a necessary component to ensure your digestive system is working correctly.

There are two types of fibre:-

1. Soluble fibre

This fibre is soluble in your gut and makes a gel-like material (think wallpaper paste) that effectively mops up waste in the digestive tract.  It’s particularly good at lowering cholesterol and blood glucose levels in the blood.  Soluble fibre is found mainly in beans (legumes), oats, citrus fruits, apples and barley.

2. Insoluble fibre

This fibre isn’t actually digested or absorbed by the body so passes through the small intestine mainly intact.  When it reaches your large intestine it soaks up water, making a “bulky” mass that helps push through waste food products to be eliminated.  It acts rather like a snow ball – growing as it collects debris, pushing through the intestines and clearing out the gut.

Insoluble fibre is found mainly in whole grains, bran, beans, nuts, fruit and vegetables – especially in the skins (think potato wedges with skins on, apple slices with skin on!).    Eating whole fruits and vegetables are the best way to obtain the benefits of fibre.  This is why I’m not a big fan of smoothies as often the fibre content of the fruit and vegetables has been removed.  Sweet-corn is particularly effective at passing through the body almost intact.

As fibre takes time to move through the gut, it can help to make you feel full for longer.  Plus the body has to use more energy to digest and move the fibre through the gut, which means more calories burned, therefore fibre can help with weight loss as you will eat less and burn more calories.

Animal foods such as meat, diary and fish don’t contain fibre.

How much fibre do you need each day?

Current Government guidelines in the UK recommend 30g per day.  Most of us don’t reach this at all, with the average being about 18g per day.

6 important benefits of fibre:-

  1. It helps maintain regular bowel movements;
  2. It reduces the risk of haemorrhoids and diverticular disease;
  3. It controls blood glucose levels;
  4. It helps lower bad cholesterol levels;
  5. It helps you feel full for longer so you eat less;
  6. It helps to feed the good bacteria in your gut.

One word of caution

If you haven’t been eating much fibre, you need to introduce it slowly so that  your gut can adjust to processing it again.  If you eat too much, too soon, it can make you feel gassy and uncomfortable.  I believe this is why many people think they are intolerant to whole grains when really their gut just needs time to adjust.

You also need to ensure you drink plenty of water – remember how I said insoluble fibre ‘soaks’ up water?  If you are already dehydrated you can make matters worse, so drink, drink, drink!

Here’s a super tasty way to get your fibre, without eating All Bran:-

fruit loaf recipe

A super fibre fruit loaf

I’ve been making this super fibre fruit loaf for years now.  It’s packed full of dates, figs, apricots and raisins and contains no fat.  It even gets a thumbs up from the Hubby.

If you want to make it too, you can find the recipe right here at Taste Magazine

This week’s meal plan:-

  • Caramelised onion and camembert quiche and salad
  • Chicken and mushroom pies with potato wedges (skin on!)
  • Chicken, portobella mushroom, prosciutto stacks with balsamic glaze and salad
  • Creamy salmon pasta
  • Spicy chilli chicken and salads
  • Cajun chicken, sweet potatoes and tomato chilli jam and vegetables.


Have a wonderful week.  Don’t forget to sign up for my Newsletter to get regular updates from the blog, recipes and special offers.


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6 Healthy eating holiday tips and this week’s meal plan

6 healthy eating holiday tips

6 Healthy eating holiday tips

I absolutely love holidays.  They’re a great time to relax, enjoy time with loved ones, explore new places and enjoy food!!!

When on holiday though,  the last thing you want to do is restrict what you eat and drink.   However, I believe that by making a few simple little tweaks here and there to your food choices you can still stay on track with your healthy goals.  Here’s my 6 holiday tips:-

1. Enjoy Breakfast

If you are staying in a half board or bed and breakfast hotel then make the most of the breakfast on offer.  You’ve got the whole of the rest of the day to burn this food off, plus you’ve paid for it up front!

If you are self catering, make sure you eat a healthy breakfast to start the day off right – lots of fresh fruit, yogurts, eggs and maybe a croissant or two!

2. Eat a light lunch

If you’ve eaten a big breakfast, then only eat a very light lunch.  A salad, or some fresh fruit should keep you going.  Obviously, children will need more – mine are always starving no matter how big a breakfast they’ve had.

3. Do some exercise

Try to do some exercise.  Get out and explore your holiday destination by walking as much as possible.  Use the pool or sea to set yourself a swimming challenge each day.  Spend time playing with the kids – tag, table tennis, cricket or tennis if available.

4. Keep track of your drinks

It’s easy whilst on holiday to drink more beer, cocktails, wine and even sugary, fizzy drinks.  Whilst, it’s important to enjoy your holiday, these extra calories do add up.  Just try to alternative your drinks with lots of water.  Tea and coffee is also fine but preferably without any added sugar.

5. Listen to your body

When your body says it’s FULL – stop eating!

Yes, I know there are lots of temptations to carrying on eating but you really will feel better for listening to your body.  Filling up on the “all you can eat” buffet before bed will affect your sleep as your body thinks it needs to digest all that food instead of resting.

6. When eating out try some healthy swaps like the ones in this chart:-



If you want some more ideas about changing and making new habits check out this post HERE

This week’s meal plan:-

  • Cumin and garlic fish with salsa and creamy potato bake
  • Mexican chilli chicken and rice
  • Satay pork and oven baked turmeric rice
  • Quiche and salad
  • Sweet chilli chicken stir fry with noodles
  • Thai turkey burgers and salad


I hope you all have a wonderful week and if you are off on holiday soon, have a great time!.  I will be having a little break from the meal plan posts whilst I’m on my holidays.

Don’t forget to sign up for my regular newsletter for updates and recipes from this site.

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My school morning routine and this week’s meal plan

My School Morning Routinemy school morning routine

One of the biggest obstacles to eating healthy is usually time.  Many families in the UK sacrifice breakfast because they say they just don’t have time.

Dutch kids are some of the happiest in the world and research has concluded that one of the reasons is because they have a family breakfast together.

Now, I don’t want this blog post to come across as smug and righteous but I do believe that 1) kids need breakfast and 2) if you stick to a routine you can find time.  Ironically, I hate routines but once you have kids you just have to start adopting them, otherwise nothing gets done.

Getting six people ready in the mornings has become a bit of a military exercise in our house, so I thought I would share with you what we do.  Hopefully our routine may help you work out a plan for your mornings.

6.oo am – Our alarm goes off

6.10 am – We are lucky that usually only one of us has to leave the house to do the school run so that person hops in the shower.  The other parent will then go downstairs to let the dog and cats out for a pee, give the dog breakfast, lay the table for breakfast, probably empty the dishwasher from the night before, make a cup of tea!

6.30 – 7.00 am – We enjoy a cup of tea in bed!  If we both have to leave the house though, the other parent will jump in the shower during this time.

7.00 am – Wake the kids up and get their breakfast orders!  Hubby and I then get breakfast ready.  Mealtimes in our crazy house can often resemble a café with 6 different orders.  Usually there are combinations of eggs (boiled/scrambled), toast, fruit, yogurt, granola, cereal and COFFEE!!!

We usually eat breakfast together around 7.15/7.20am, assuming the kids have fallen out of bed.

7.30 am The two younger kids get dressed into their school uniform.  I pack their school lunches, school bags and games bags ready to leave.  (I usually prepare their packed lunch and sort out their uniform and PE stuff the night before).

7.40am  Everyone’s in the car and off to school!

Once everyone’s gone this gives the remaining parent time to tidy up breakfast and maybe sneak in some exercise!

Obviously our routine probably won’t work for you but once you find one that fits your lifestyle it does make life easier in the mornings.

Some other tips that might work for your routine: lay the breakfast table the night before, prepare a takeaway breakfast to eat on your commute or when you get to work.  Getting teenage kids to eat breakfast is usually impossible so I try to provide them with some snacks to take with them to eat at break-time, which is when they’ve usually woken up sufficiently enough to feel hungry.

I hope you find this insight into our routine helpful.  Do you already have a morning routine that incorporates breakfast?  I’d love to know what your routine is – tell me in the comments below, on Facebook or on Instagram.

This week’s meal plan:-

  1. BBQ marinated chicken fillets and BBQ corn on the cob, courgettes, tomatoes and roasted baby potatoes
  2. Paprika pork steaks, Portobello mushrooms, sweet potato wedges and pineapple coleslaw.
  3. Curried turkey and vegetable pie with salad
  4. Creamy chicken and tomato pasta
  5. Spicy beef burgers with salad


I hope you have a super week.  Why not sign up to the New Leaf Newsletter here to get regular updates, recipes and articles.

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