My school morning routine and this week’s meal plan

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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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6 life lessons learnt from an A-ha concert and this week’s meal plan

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6 life lessons from an A-ha concert and this week's meal plan

 

Hello Everybody,

Are you intrigued?  What life lessons could I possibly learn from an A-ha concert?

6 life lessons learnt from an A-ha concert

Well, I love people watching, so standing for five hours surrounded by a crowd of people gave me an opportunity to observe life and come to these six conclusions:-

Life lesson No 1 – Be present

It’s important to be present in the moment.  It’s easy to get distracted taking photos and/or videos when you’re experiencing an event.  Yes, photos are a great reminder of an event, but if you’re not careful you can end up spending all of your time viewing life through a small screen, instead of taking in the wider sights and sounds.

When I was travelling in my younger years I was always astounded by the tourists who would arrive at a beauty spot, jump out of their vehicles, take some photos and then leave again.  In my experience you will gain so much more by stopping, sitting or standing, breathing deeply and taking in the atmosphere of a place or activity.  Make time to really absorb what you are doing.

Life Lesson No 2 – Make time for fun

With our busy, stressful lives it’s easy to forget to have fun.  As a mum of four kids, days and evenings easily become swallowed up by chores – stuff that needs doing but isn’t fun at all.  It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of just doing mundane stuff.  Make time to book in some regular activities doing things you really enjoy!  I know I need to work on this one a bit more!

Life Lesson No 3 – Make time for music

I’d forgotten how much joy music can bring.  Seeing three bands from  my youth brought back strong memories of my younger self.

Whilst it’s good to move with the times and explore new music, playing music from your past reminds you of the things you used to enjoy.  This will help with point 2 above so that you can find activities to reinvigorate your sense of fun.

Music is also a powerful way to influence your mood.  If you’re feeling low or need some motivation, then playing music that you associate with happy times can help boost and invigorate.  Likewise, you could choose music that reflects your mood and how you feel.  It’s okay sometimes to  be quiet, reflective or a little sad – you don’t have to (and it’s usually not possible) to be happy all the time.  Just be wary of staying in that mood for too long.

Life lesson No 4 – Look after yourself

I’m always struggling to fit enough exercise into my life and I know this is a common problem for most people.  I also know how important exercise is as a preventive medicine.

Lack of exercise is the fourth leading cause of disease.  Guidelines suggest we should get 30 minutes of moderate intensity (being able to talk but not sing) five times per week or 150 minutes per week  (source: http://www.theirishbalance.com

After seeing the band and in particular Morten Harket, who at age 58 looks fantastic, I’ve been motivated to try much harder to do more exercise.

Eating healthy, exercising, not smoking or drinking can have amazing anti-aging effects!

Life lesson No 5 – Be aware of your surroundings

On a slightly darker note, I have a word of caution for ladies (and possibly men too).  Be aware of others around you.

We were standing throughout the concert in one area, as were most people.  There were couples, groups of friends and families.  Near us were two men who spent the whole evening getting drunk and chatting up any ladies who were there without men.  They spent a considerable part of the evening chatting up two girls in particular.

One girl went off to get drinks, leaving the other girl to keep their place.  Shortly after, one of the men chatting them up disappeared as well.  A good 20 minutes or so passed and I could see that the girl waiting was beginning to become concerned that her friend hadn’t returned.  Eventually she did appear, drinks in hand, followed shortly after by the man.

Now, most likely nothing happened but there was a risk that by splitting up the girls had made themselves vulnerable to a possible danger from these drunken men.

Probably, the girls and men were just looking for some fun, but be careful not let the pursuit of fun impair your judgement of others.

Life lesson No 6 – I’m getting old!

Lastly, standing (and dancing) for five hours didn’t help the arthritis in my knees.  Oh the joys of getting older, but I’m on a mission now to do more exercise with Morten as my muse!

 

Do you enjoy people watching?  Has it taught you any important life lessons.  Let me know on my Facebook Page or on  Instagram

 

This week’s meal plan:

  • Crumbed chicken, boiled new potatoes and coleslaw
  • BBQ honey pork steaks and curried rice salad
  • Salmon and asparagus parcels, Jacket Potatoes and salad
  • BBQ sausages marinated in a BBQ sauce with salad and flatbreads
  • Sweet and sour chicken with rice
  • Spagetti Carbonara

 

Wishing you all a wonderful week.

Don’t forget to sign up for my free Newsletter here to get regular updates, news and tips.

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6 simple tips for a healthier grocery shop and this week’s meal plan

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6 simple tips for a healthier grocery shop and this week's meal plan

6 Simple tips for a healthier grocery shop

As I’ve mentioned before, most supermarkets are set up intentionally to make you buy as much unhealthy food as possible.  These foods are made from low grade ingredients that provide retailers with the greatest profit.  So here are my 6 simple tips to help make your grocery shop healthier.

1. Always take a shopping list and stick to it

A shopping list works best if you’ve already planned the meals you’re going to cook.  You can then ensure you include on your list all the ingredients you need for these meals.  This method will help you save time and money.  It will also help to stop you buying ‘ready meals’ and foods that distract you from your healthy eating goals.

Keep your list somewhere handy in the kitchen so that you can add items to the list when you use something up.

(for more tips see 1 quick step to healthier eating)

Check out these great shopping and meal planner pads to help keep you organised.

2. Never shop on an empty stomach

If you’re starving then everything in the cake aisle will be screaming your name!

When you shop with a full stomach, research shows you are much less likely to make poor food choices and you’ll buy less food overall.

3. Don’t be afraid to skip aisles

If you’re trying to eliminate certain foods from your life such as cakes, sweets and chocolate, then avoid these aisles.  Willpower is a limited resource so if you are not near these items you won’t need to rely on your willpower to resist them.  The same principle works in the home too – don’t have food items in your house that you are trying to avoid.  If they are not accessible it’s a lot easier to avoid them.

4. Start your shopping in the fruit and vegetable aisles

Seeing and smelling healthy fruit and vegetables will put you in the right mind-set to fill your trolley with good stuff.  Then, when you carry on shopping you will be less tempted to pile in unhealthy foods.  There will also be less room for unhealthy stuff!.

5. Buy fruit and vegetables that are in season

Firstly, seasonable fruits and vegetables are much cheaper so you can load up with more.  Plus, they are usually fresher which means they are more nutritious and better quality.

6. Remember to check the nutrition labels on any packaged foods

The traffic light system on food packets in the UK is a helpful tool that displays calories, fats, sugars and salt levels, but not all food producers follow this system.  This means that you have to carefully study the nutrition labels.  It can be really time consuming and not always possible when you have children in tow.  If you can’t check the labels whilst shopping, spend some time checking them when you are at home with more time.  When I do this and realise a product isn’t as healthy as I thought, then I just make a mental note to not buy that item again.

See my rant about labels in ‘a rant about misleading food packaging’

 

I hope you find these tips helpful.  Let me know if you have any other helpful tips you’d like to share.

This week’s meal plan:-

  • BBQ duck with tomato, avocado and mint salad and boiled  Jersey new potatoes
  • Salmon steaks with mushroom and leeks, salad and caramelised rice
  • Chicken enchiladas with salad
  • Turkey burgers with satay sauce and pear and prosciutto salad
  • Gammon steaks with pineapple, potato wedges and vegies
  • BBQ five spice pork steaks and salad

I hope you have a super week.

Don’t forget to check out my Facebook page here or you can link up with me on Instagram here.

You can also keep up to date by subscribing to our Newsletter here

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Top 10 tips to boost brain function and this week’s meal plan

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top ten tips to boost brain function

 

 

Hello Everybody,

I hope you have had a good week and are enjoying the long weekend.

If you are living in a house with teenagers in the UK, I expect you are probably half way through the important GCSE, AS and A level exam period.

I hope you’re not experiencing too many dramas with your teenagers – unlike my 17 year old who decided doing a bit of skateboarding between revising was a good idea.  Five hours at A & E later and we have a fractured elbow joint to contend with.  Thankfully, it’s his left arm and he’s right handed.

If your teens are hitting a bit of slump though, here’s my Top Ten tips to boost brain function – hopefully 5 & 6 won’t apply to our teens too much!

 

Top 10 tips to boost brain function during exam season:

 

  1. Hydrate – Drinking a glass of water before an exam can improve cognitive ability by 15%.  Aim for 6-8 glasses of fluid per day, more if exercising hard or if the weather is particularly hot.
  2. Eat healthy Omega 3 fats – oily wild fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies, nuts and seeds such as walnuts, cashews, brazil nuts, flax and chai seeds, green leafy vegetables, avocadoes and extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Carbs – eating complex carbohydrates through the day helps to keep blood glucose levels stable, thereby keeping energy flowing to the brain.  Suitable carbs would be wholegrain breakfast cereals and breads, brown rice, pulses and beans.
  4. Exercise – physical activity that raises the heart beat for approximately 30 minutes per day is ideal.
  5. Don’t smoke – smoking has a negative impact on blood vessels to the brain, as well as damaging the heart and lungs.
  6. Only drink alcohol in  moderation.  Teens shouldn’t really drink at all as it impacts developing brains.
  7. Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables.  Not only do these provide high levels of nutrients and vitamins, they are also a form of slow release carbs (see 3 above).
  8. Keep caffeine and sugar intake to a minimum – this includes energy drinks and coca-cola.
  9. Get plenty of sleep.  Lack of sleep has a profound impact on memory and cognitive function.  Any sleep deprived mother can confirm this!
  10. Rosemary – sniffing a handful of the herb rosemary or sniffing a few drops of essential rosemary oil on a tissue prior to an exam can help memory recall by up to 75% according to research by Northumbia University, Newcastle.

These top tips have also  been shown to help prevent the onset of dementia and Alzheimers in older brains, so it’s a good list for us parents to adopt too!

Wishing all your teenagers every success in their exams.

This week’s meal plan:-

  • Sausage stroganoff
  • Coconut chilli chicken and salad
  • Chicken with a white wine and mustard sauce, new potatoes and vegetables
  • Salmon with chilli lime noodle salad
  • Cottage pie
  • Pork and spicy plum stir fry and rice
  • Quiche and salad

I hope you all have a fantastic week and for those of you on half term, lets hope the weather is good!

Don’t forget to check out my Facebook page here or you can link up with me on Instagram here.

You can also keep up to date by subscribing to our Newsletter here

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A review of Hot Pod Yoga and this week’s meal plan

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Hello Everybody,

I hope you’ve had a super week.

A review of Hot Pod Yoga

*Please note this is a completely independent review and is based on my own opinions*

I was really excited when I spotted the social media announcement that Hot Pod Yoga was coming to our town.  The description of yoga in a blow up pod, with an internal temperature of 37°C was very enticing to my stiff and creaky joints.

I duly booked my free opening session and counted down the days eagerly to the opening.

I hadn’t expected much from the exterior of the venue as I knew it was a unit on an industrial estate.  However, on arrival it did look rather sadder than I had imagined.  The signage was very unwelcoming for an opening weekend – a bit of bunting or some Himalayan flags wouldn’t have gone amiss!

outside view of hot pod yoga site

Inside was a typical small warehouse unit.  There was a table offering drinks and fruit but I felt it had a rather ‘Youth Club’ feel to it.  Lockers and shoe racks lined the walls for personal items.  We were assured the unit was locked once we entered the pod.  hot pod yoga external view

On entering the pod, the first sensory element to hit was the lack of light.  It was rather dark which made it hard to find a mat.  Your eyes do adjust after a while and there were a couple of low light emitting lamps in two corners of the pod.  To be honest, I thought the issue with the light levels may just have been due to my ‘old’ eyes but other younger attendees were stumbling around too.  I did feel I was the oldest person there, which may be a good thing or a bad thing?

Anyhow, our olfactory senses were given a treat from a diffuser giving off a pleasant lavender whiff.

inside view of the yoga pod

Now, I don’t want to sound like a wimp but not knowing what to expect, I did have a little moment of panic whilst waiting for everyone to arrive.  The pod isn’t massive and gets zipped up so it can feel a little claustrophobic.  Mix this in with a 37°C heat, diffusers and semi-darkness and I did have a little wobble as to whether I would be OK.  Thankfully, once we started the yoga there was no time to think about this stuff so I was fine.

Now, to the yoga.  The instructor began the session by asking how many hadn’t done yoga before – over half the class.  She then proceeded to jump straight into her routine.  She remembered to ask half way through whether anyone had any injuries but from what I could see she didn’t seem to engage with those who said they had.  In my opinion there was very little instruction on how to do each pose and I was astonished when, towards the end, we were all encouraged to do headstands.

The other issue with the yoga part was that the mats were very close together so it was impossible to stretch out sideways without poking your neighbour.  Likewise, standing at the edge of the pod meant having a sloping ceiling/side, which restricted my ability to reach up above my head.  Personally, I didn’t find the music particularly relaxing either, but again that could just be my age!

My overall review:

Positives

  • I loved the heat
  • I loved the dynamic movement of the yoga
  • it provided a good workout, with lots of deep stretches
  • there’s no ‘woo, woo’ bits which I know can put some people off yoga
  • it would probably suit a younger client than me!

Negatives

  • I didn’t like the enclosed space, but some folks who are used to a gym probably won’t be concerned by this.
  • I don’t think it would be suitable if you suffer from claustrophobia
  • I felt the instruction wasn’t in-depth enough, especially for beginners
  • there was no feeling of mindfulness to the yoga practice

Now I want to make it clear, that whilst I didn’t feel Hot Pod Yoga was for me, it may well be an exact fit for you.  I would always recommend giving something a go if you think it’s safe for you to do so.

Exercise, like healthy eating has to fit the individual.  There is so much information available these days on what we should be doing but it’s really important to listen to your body and your mindset and find methods that work for you as an individual.  Society is programmed on a ‘one size fits all’ mentality, especially when it comes to food and exercise.  Making healthy changes to our diet won’t work if it doesn’t fit into our lifestyle or we just plain don’t like the food recommended.

For example, I know chai seeds are on trend and super good for us,  but I really don’t like them!  Trying to force myself to eat them, would just make me disgruntled and unhappy.  Instead, I opt for pumpkin seeds, pine nuts and nuts.  I’ve still made some healthy changes to my diet, but on a level I’m happy with.  This means I’m far likelier to stay committed to it.  Making manageable changes to your diet will have greater, long term benefits than jumping on a diet trend that doesn’t work for you as an individual.

My overall message – Always try new things (exercise, foods etc) and then see if they will adapt to you and your lifestyle so that you can be consistent with those changes.

This week’s meal plan:-

  • Moroccan chicken with mango and chickpea salsa and new potatoes
  • Pork Satay stir fry with rice
  • Duck breast with a creamy mushroom sauce, jacket potatoes and salad
  • Thai green chicken curry and rice
  • Homemade burgers/tuna burgers with salad
  • Seafood linguine

Wishing you all a lovely week with lots of sunshine!.

Don’t forget you can sign up for our free New Leaf Newsletter.

You can also let me know on our Facebook Page whether you have tried Hot Pod Yoga and what you thought of it.

 

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