An Ode To popchips

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I have a bit of a thing for popchips – I first heard about them on the Jillian Michael’s podcast, as she’s an investor in the company, and as you know, I love me some Jillian. So I was eager to try them out, and boy, did they live up to the hype.

I got an email through from popchips recently about research they did about snacking at work, that used the term ‘snackered’ to describe the British workforce – the word combining ‘knackered’ with ‘snack’ to refer to someone who is both tired and in need of a little sustenance to restore their soul. I don’t know if they coined this term, but I like it, and I’m adding it in to the very important diet-related word ‘hangry’ – when you’re so hungry, you get angry because you’re on a diet and you’re not ‘allowed’ to eat anything. Well, popchips are under 100 calories a bag, so whether you’re hangry or snackered, I’m fairly sure you can fit this into your calorie allowance!

Most diet plans will have an allowance for snack food – sometimes twice a day – and that fits into popchips’ research that workers reach for snacks at 11.30am and 3pm daily. Plus, apparently, 1 in 10 workers of the 2000 they surveyed admitted to taking a day off with a faked illness when they ran out of energy in the afternoon, while 6% said they take their snacks into the toilet to eat in secret! Not sure what’s going on there, but I don’t think you’d have a reason to hide your bag of popchips at the office – unless you were scared of your co-workers stealing them! I have to say, in the case of bunking off work because of low energy levels, I don’t think a bag of popchips can really solve that problem (sometimes, a sickie is just a sickie), but it will console you to snack on them during your commute home as you contemplate a half duvet day…

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popchips are definitely one of those snacks that it’s worth having around the house (and office!) for when you get an attack of the munchies – because they’re not fried, but rather popped like popcorn, they’re healthier for you than regular potato crisps. I wouldn’t say they’re an alternative to crisps, because it does them a disservice to compare the two – they’re really a unique product all on their own, and the process of manufacturing them is totally different to the way crisps are made (here’s a fact – the chips aren’t made from slices of potato, but rather small kernels of potato that are popped just like popcorn!). Who would have thought that there were more ways to cook a potato in the year 2013!

Visit popchips at www.popchips.co.uk to find out more, including stockist information.

My thanks to popchips for providing me with the delicious snacks mentioned above!

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DIY Boot Camp: getting yourself back on track!

Sometimes, even with the best will in the world, you can get derailed on a fitness regimen. Even with all the support possible, with the best fitness equipment, a budget for healthy food, and plenty of time for exercise, goals can fall by the wayside. Motivation is a fleeting thing, and willpower is even more elusive. Can you see where I’m going with this? Yes, it’s true… I have been derailed…

Partially, I blame Hush’s ridiculously comfortable harem trousers. I live in them, and they are the most cosy items of clothing I own. I rarely leave the house with them but as I work from home that certainly doesn’t limit my opportunities to wear them. However, they are incredibly forgiving of the woman-slob, and very accommodating to expanding rear ends. It’s entirely possible to go up a dress size and never even realise it when you have these comfortable trousers to hand. That exactly what happened to me after I took a bit of a break from exercise due to work-related stress and a really bad cold. When it was time to reach for those skinny jeans – let’s just say they didn’t fit so well…

I also blame a lack of a real and concrete goal for my fitness – every year I go to Ascot, but this year one of my friends wasn’t sure if she could attend, and of course, I couldn’t go without her. So, I slacked off. Then, when it was confirmed we were going, and I tried on my usual dress size at the shop… It didn’t fit. No way. No how.

It’s obviously stupid to base your self-worth on an arbitrary number in a dress. We’re always told that dress sizes are bigger now than ever. Vanity sizing is rampant and Marilyn Monroe was a size 16 anyway, so what’s the big deal? (She wasn’t…). Of course, psychology is more complex than that, and no matter how stupid and arbitrary the numbers may be, I’m not afraid to say that it had a real, demoralizing effect on me to have gone up a dress size. I hold my hands up and admit it’s ridiculous, that as an intelligent and educated woman I shouldn’t let other people define my self-worth – if I had fit into my usual size I probably wouldn’t have seen a problem, and so on. But still, the fact remains, I was faced with two and a half weeks to Ascot, and a dress that didn’t fit me. Rather than spiraling into self-hatred (again, I am not saying this is a sensible or worthy reaction, I am simply being incredibly honest about my feelings), I decided to put into action probably the most drastic weight-loss plan I’ve ever embarked on, and went for a full-on DIY Boot Camp.

Now, boot camps are everywhere in the UK and beyond, and I must confess, I’ve never been to one. Their results are legendary, and their toughness even more notorious. Hours of exercise coupled with carefully calorie-controlled food is the secret to their success, though, and I was sure I could replicate that at home. However, I am no personal trainer, nor am I a nutritionist, so I’m not going to share with you the minute details of what I did – you shouldn’t take me as the authority on this as I have no qualifications. However, I will let you know generally how I went about losing weight in my DIY boot camp so you can do your own research.

  1. Take a look at the kinds of exercises offered by boot camps, with emphasis on duration and intensity. Taking a look at the boot camps I investigated, it looked as though 6-8 hours a day was usual. However, this mixed in everything from yoga to circuits and spinning, so there was a variety of exercises on offer, some of them fat burning, some of them more to do with sculpting muscle or relaxation. Gentle cardio and intense circuit training is something I’m familiar with doing,  and have had good results from before – and more importantly, I knew I could keep it up, so I decided to opt for this for my own boot camp. A few hours of exercise biking in front of the TV, and a few work out DVDs back to back is the way I decided to replicate this at home. My go-to work out DVDs were ones I considered to be challenging but not advanced, so I stuck to Davina’s Three 30 Minute Work Outs (only cardio-box), Davina’s Super Fit, Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred (only level one), and Jillian’s Extreme Shed and Shred.
  2. Read up about the kinds of nutrition recommended at boot camps. I already had a head start thanks to my years of dieting and following healthy eating plans. It’s all simple stuff – low carbs, high protein, and lots of fruit and vegetables. I started off with one very low calorie day to kickstart my plan, then kept my intake to 1200-1500 calories a day of good food. In particular, I discovered Nakd bars, which are all-natural, raw food bars packed with fruit and nuts. Frustratingly, no boot camp will tell you how many calories they actually give participants, and given the amount of calories I was burning, I was reluctant to go below 1200.
  3. Hydrate. You will be sweating a lot. Drink as much as your body wants. Cut back on fizzy drinks, tea and coffee – you don’t have to cut these out, though, but I guarantee you if you do a lot of exercise, it’s water you will crave. I didn’t force myself to drink a lot at any point, but there’s no doubt I drank several liters in a day just by listening to what my body wanted. However, your body doesn’t just require water, but also electrolytes. So look into electrolyte replacement powder, sports drinks, and coconut water. Personally, my favourite way to hydrate naturally is coconut water because of its natural electrolyte content, but don’t forget that this and sports drinks contain calories that you need to count.
  4. Supplement. Boot camps aren’t a natural state of being for your body, and put an enormous amount of stress on it. You’ll be making huge demands of yourself, so you need to make sure you pay this back. A daily vitamin is always a good idea, but even more important during this time – and I also found out about the amazing anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil capsules by reading Bob Harper’s Jumpstart to Skinny. Although most people will take 1000mg a day if they supplement with this, he recommends 3000mg a day in order to combat muscle soreness. I have to say it really helps. Fish oil tablets also have loads of other great benefits, and they won’t break the bank, either. (Plus, they do great things for your hair!)
  5. Weigh yourself before, weigh yourself after. Do not weigh yourself during. This is something I can tell you from personal experience could derail you. In the first day on my plan, I lost 3lbs. In the second day, I lost 2lbs. I then regained everything I had lost over the next few days, before coming back to my original total loss of 5lbs. Now, for a week and two day’s worth of dieting and exercise, 5lbs loss is excellent (but not sustainable or necessarily typical). But my original 5lb loss was no doubt due to losing water weight and possibly some muscle, as well as a bit of fat. Regaining that weight over the next few days was demoralizing and painful to see,  but it was just part of the process. If you weigh yourself every day during a boot camp, you might decide to give up when the pounds pile back on. But, if you stick to your guns, the weight does come off. It’s just nicer to see the progress at the end rather than that horrible up-down graph during. I am sure this is why boot camps ban scales and only weigh participants at the end of their stay. However, a slight amendment to this is measuring tape – you can use this throughout the process, because those inches will also drop off, and far more reliably than weight does.
  6. Know when to stop. This is not something that is healthy to do for the long term. Most boot camps last for one week, which seems a reasonable period of time. Think of it as a challenge to complete, not a way of life. Do not do anything without checking with your doctor first. Your body is amazing, so don’t damage it because of vanity. If you find yourself developing an unhealthy obsession with exercising or dieting, you need to seek help immediately. The psychological implications of this could be incredibly bad for your long term health and include disordered eating, or even anorexia. Look after yourself. Don’t follow advice without researching it yourself first – this includes everything I’ve written here. Only you can be responsible for your own health, and you owe it to your body to put the time in to research. If at any point, you feel faint, stop exercising for a while and give your body something good to eat.

So, on my epic weight-loss tour I gave myself two and a half weeks to lose enough weight to fit into my usual dress size. I exercised for hours, passed up roast dinners and doughnuts, and ate a healthy, low calorie diet. I lost 5lbs in total in ten days, and now I fit comfortably into my dress for Ascot, well before my deadline. I will continue to maintain my usual 1200 calorie budget per day and exercise for around 30-60 minutes a day between then and now, but I am amazed at my progress in such a short amount of time, and I feel pretty proud of my achievement. Yes, it may be vain and vacuous, but on the other hand, it has reminded me that weight-loss can be simple and, dare I say it, easy, when you have a clear, concrete goal and no excuses.

Disclaimer: none of this is intended as a regimen for you to follow, it is merely my account of my own personal experiences and should not be used for your own weight loss plan. Consult your doctor before starting any weight-loss plan and please do not consider me to be an authority or expert on weight-loss.

Jillian Michaels’ Body Revolution: Preview

I finally ordered Jillian Michaels’ Body Revolution! I’ve been hankering after this for a long time, and I’m so pleased that I finally got around to getting it. It’s very pricey compared to Jillian’s other products (at £99), but I think it’s a worthwhile investment…

Collection

The programme lasts for 90 days, and contains 12 different weight workouts and three cardio workouts. The reason I was keen to try this particular programme is that it alternates muscle groups – something which Jillian’s other DVDs don’t do. The idea is that you work one group of muscles, and then give them time to rest so that they can rebuild stronger. As I understand it, when you lift weights, you create tiny tears in your muscles, and it’s the rebuilding process, when your body repairs itself, that actually makes your muscles stronger. With more intensive workouts like the 30 Day Shred, you don’t stop to rest between working out groups. I hope that the Body Revolution actually tones my muscles more than I’ve experienced in the past – but first of all, of course, I need to do the workouts first!

The kit comes with three cardboard sleeves, pictured above, which have the DVD collection inside. There are also various booklets that go with it, including a meal guide for her 7-day kickstart programme.

Kickstart cover

Inside are a range of meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for you to eat during a week-long period at the start. Jillian is very clear that you only do this once during the 90 days, as the diet is restrictive, and the exercise schedule is pretty intensive.

Kickstart menu

This is the diet plan I’ll be starting tomorrow, along with the exercise plan. I’m waiting for my shopping to arrive! I’ve bought items to make most of the things listed – the recipes are in the back of the book – so we’ll see how I go from tomorrow… The hardest thing will be avoiding tempting Easter treats! The recipes aren’t low in calories, but I do think they’re very low in carbohydrates. Hopefully there’s enough protein in there to keep me going!

Kickstart workouts

Here’s the workout plan for the first week – I’ve cheated a little bit and I already started yesterday, doing cardio 1 and workout 1. But I aim to start properly tomorrow and then work through until next Friday. Over the weekend I’ll perhaps do cardio again and rest on Sunday, so that I can then start Phase One as it should be on the Monday after Easter.

Here’s what the first month of work outs looks like:

Phase 1 workouts

As you can see, it follows a neat pattern which is pretty easy to understand! I really want to make sure I start it on a Monday, because having a real, set in stone schedule is very important to my ability to stick to it. I think that if I alter the schedule in some way, I’ll start making excuses as to why I can put off doing one of the work outs, so I want to eliminate that risk before I even start! Anyway, each block of exercise is approx 30 minutes, which really isn’t a lot to ask in a day!

Phase 1 discs

This is what I’ll be staring at for the next month! This is the inside of the cardboard sleeve for Phase One.

Here’s the explanation of what exercises are on each disc:

Phase 1

I’ll be back tomorrow to review the first day on the Kickstart plan!

Kickbox Fastfix: A Review

If you’re a Jillian fan, or have used her 30 Day Shred or Ripped in 30 videos, you’re probably really used to Jillian’s 3, 2, 1 method, where the circuits are all very structured around strength, cardio and core, and involve a set number of each before circling back around for a second set. This structure is one of my favourite aspects of the workouts – because you always know where you are and what you’re supposed to be working on – but it also means that very often, her workouts can seem stale or samey, as they’re based on the same general principles.

Kickbox Fastfix really throws something new into the mix with kickboxing moves and a new approach to the workouts that left me feeling energised and ready to commit to a new workout style – at least, for a while! There’s a fairly hefty introduction, explaining the form for all of the kickboxing moves, which I reckon could be the downfall of quite a few impatient would-be kickboxers. It’s a little frustrating having to work your way through this tutorial – burning no calories, really – before you can get stuck in with your workout, but you really can’t skip this as you’ll have no idea what’s going on when you eventually begin! I’ve only watched it once, but I managed to pick up the moves easily just from this first run through.

The second point is that you need some body co-ordination to be able to pull this off without a lot of practice. I personally do not consider myself to be the most coordinated person in the world, but I can get the hang of workout sequences and rhythms after a few goes – my husband is not so lucky, and spent a good few minutes of his workout staring at the TV in puzzlement. The sequences can be very long, involving multiple styles of punches and kicks before starting back at the beginning, and I also found that some of them could be simplified rather easily, which made me wonder whether there was a reason Jillian had set them up the way she did to start with. For example, it’s much easier to memorise on the fly ‘jab, jab, hook, hook’ than it is ‘jab, hook, hook, jab’ – and if you’re repeating on a loop, there’s no real difference – or is there? Regardless, I reckon anyone can master these eventually, but it might take a little longer for some people.

I definitely enjoyed this new approach from Jillian – it’s nice to have something in my collection that doesn’t fall back on the old 3, 2, 1 approach, which I can bust out if things are feeling stale. Davina’s kickboxing DVD was always a favourite in our house anyway, so I’m glad I’ve got Jillian’s version, too! The workout consists of three levels, each about 25 minutes long, which means there’s a decent amount of variation – and it’s not too taxing to tack one level onto the next to create a longer workout, either.

Let’s face it, nothing makes you feel more bad-ass than a bit of kickboxing – and Jillian is certainly the queen of fitness bad-assery!

Kickbox Fastfix is currently available in region 1 only, from Amazon.co.uk.

Body Revolution comes to the UK!

Great news for Jillian fans here in the UK – the fitness guru has finally launched her amazing 90 programme here! You can purchase the entire thing here: http://www.hsm.tv/fitness/product/jillian-michaels-body-revolution for £99.99, which is a great price considering what’s included. You get (and I’m quoting from the site here) “15 all-new DVDs, Resistance Cable, Fitness Guide, customizable 90-day Fat-Burning Meal Plan complete with grocery lists, delicious recipes, and daily menus, 90-Day Journal. PLUS, a bonus 7 day Kick Start Your Metabolism diet plan to detox your body and help you curb your food addictions.”

As for me, I’m not able to purchase one of these programmes, but I’m currently working on a variety of Jillian DVDs and a calorie restriction of 1200 daily. I recently purchased Extreme Shed and Shred, so expect a review of that soon!

Anyone out there getting the Body Revolution? Let me know what you think! Or, if you’ve already got one, how did you get on?

30 Day Shred: A Review

It seems to me that there’s only a very finite amount of ways to exercise. There are hundreds of types, yes, but the way you do exercise is limited to certain scenarios. Obviously, if you’re a builder or do a physical job, that’s your exercise. You can take a class. You can go to the gym. You can go jogging or swimming. You can workout in a home gym. You can do exercise DVDs. You can play games on your computer. I’ve tried most of these things – except the physical job stuff. I think learning a trade so I can fit exercise into my daily routine is taking it a bit far… Of all the methods you can use to get fit, exercise DVDs are by far and away the best method for me. I don’t have to leave the house, adding travel time onto my workout sessions. I don’t have to wait for people to be finished with workout equipment. I don’t have to buy extra equipment. I don’t have to keep to other people’s schedules.

Before I tried Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred, I’d honestly not done a workout DVD before. I had no idea what to expect. I’d done a few months of exercise regimes on the Wii (EA Sports, Wii Fit, etc), and they were fairly hard work, but you usually had to wait in between exercises, and thusly everything took longer. One thing you can say about 30DS is that there is NO waiting around between exercises.

I think I picked the 30DS DVD up at the beginning of January 2010. Not as a ‘New Year Resolution’, but just to keep my routine fresh, as I was losing weight for my wedding that year (August). In the space of a month, I lost 8lbs, by combining the 30DS with a calorie restriction of 1200 calories a day. It was completely amazing, and gave me so much confidence. With results like that, it’s easy to see why I am such a huge fan of Jillian Michaels!

So, that’s the results out of the way (hmm, maybe I should have kept that until the end?), so I’ll talk more about how the workout is structured. There are three 30 minute workouts (she says 20 minutes, but has since admitted this was a little fib to get people motivated – if you include warm ups and cool downs, they’re closer to 30 mins each), and the idea is that you start at level one, do that for 10 days, then level two for 10 days, then level three for 10 days, throughout the month. You can stop and have a break if you want to, obviously! I think the most rewarding aspect of the programme for me was being able to tell that you were getting gradually better with each repetition of the level. When you start level one, you’ll probably feel like you’re going to die. When you’ve finished level three, and go back to level one, you’ll feel like you’re on holiday. The progression you make in just a month is really amazing.

Since trying this DVD, I’ve only bought three other workout DVDs from other trainers or celebrities. One was a joke gift for my husband, which was the workout DVD of a Corrie star, which took about 45 minutes and felt like waiting for the bus – not hard, not tiring, just very, very boring. One was Davina’s workout (love Davina!), which again, I didn’t feel was efficient, but was okay. I liked the kick boxing elements, but other parts just didn’t feel like a real workout. Then I did Tracey Anderson – but the least said about that the better, really… I’ve since given up on other trainers, because I’d rather work my butt off for half an hour and do some real exercise, than fanny about for 45 minutes and not even get a sweat on. I also really like the structure and progression of 30DS. You have a set amount of time to do it in, you can measure your results, you progress through, and you have an end point. With other DVDs, it seems like you continue until you’re bored, or just lose motivation.

Oh, and Jillian also gets bonus points for her hilarious commentary. I know some people don’t like being yelled at from the telly, but I find it actually really motivated me to work harder. I’d rather watch Jillian telling me to kick my own butt than watch a celebrity tell me that the workout was hard and their legs ached.

You can purchase 30 Day Shred from Amazon (currently £4.99): http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jillian-Michaels-Day-Shred-DVD/dp/B002RNOS2Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346329577&sr=8-1. Or, you can download it from iTunes – which is actually really handy. I’ve downloaded it to my phone, so if I go on holiday I can do the workout that way with water bottles or cans as my weights! And, once you’ve completed 30DS, you can move on to Ripped in 30!

GOOD LUCK! – And, let me know if you’ve tried 30 Day Shred, and what you thought of it!

Book Review: Master Your Metabolism Cookbook

I’m a huge Jillian Michaels fan. I managed to watch a series of The Biggest Loser US that she featured on, and I absolutely loved her attitude, her spark, and her committment to helping people lose weight and, in turn, change their lives completely. It was Jillian’s DVD workout 30 Day Shred that really kicked my weight loss for my wedding into gear, and ever since then I’ve only really ever used her workout DVDs – once you’ve sweated with Jillian, there doesn’t seem to be a workout to match it! I also love listening to her podcasts, too.

Anyway, as part of my ‘I Love Jillian’ kick, I picked up her recipe book, The Master Your Metabolism Cookbook. This is intended as a companion book to Master Your Metabolism, in which Jillian looks at the science behind nutrition and weight loss. Honestly, although I know bits and pieces, I’m not really that interested in the technical aspects of food and hormones – but I do love me a good cook book.

First of all, this book is US-centric. The food style is very American – things like black bean chilli, chicken salad, muffins, American pancakes, and the like. I think of it as modern classic style, the sort of thing you might get in an upscale American restaurant. This does mean that some of the ingredients are rare as hen’s teeth here (jicama, anyone?), or simply unfamiliar (black beans), but I’ve not found a great deal of difficulty in following the recipes, as I cook quite often from American sources.

Secondly, Jillian has some food foibles that are also fairly US-centric. She’s not keen at all on dairy unless it’s organic, because of growth hormones that are given to cows in America, which can then leach into dairy products. As far as I’m aware, these hormones are banned in Europe, so that’s one thing we don’t have to worry about. Jillian is also big on organic, which is a whole other discussion – but needless to say, if you’re not into organic, the substitution to non-organic is a no brainer! There are a few little other quirks, like a ban on strawberries, soy and pine nuts, because of their goitrogenic effects – this is the one I always break out when I want to emphasise what a minefield nutrition science can be. No matter what the food, there will be studies on the one hand showing it’s healthy, and on the other hand, showing it’s poison and will most likely cause you to get fat and die. This is why I tend to give myself free rein to make my own decisions – which means I can eat ice cream whenever I want – but that’s by the by!

As far as I’m concerned, the biggest downfall of this book is the lack of pictures. There, I said it. I know I’m not the only one who loves a good picture of the finished recipe. There are few books in my collection that I regularly refer to and tolerate despite a lack of pictures, and this is one of them (with USA by Sheila Lukins being another real favourite of mine). If no pictures is a deal breaker for you, then I’m afraid you’ll be missing out, because this is one of the most appealing diet books in my collection.

For a start, the titles of the recipes alone are enough to conjure up a mental image of what the finished dish will be like – and they sound beautifully appetising. How about greek yogurt cup with quinoa crunch and berries for breakfast, followed by tomato sandwich on garlic-rubbed toast for lunch, with spicy mahi-mahi and mango tacos for dinner? Don’t forget one of those famous fudge brownies for dessert! Seriously, the fudge brownies, along with the black bean chilli, seem to be the two dishes that Jillian most often refers to when she talks about her recipes, so I have an inkling that these are the two she makes most often herself!

Another reason I love this book, apart from the cooking style, and the gorgeous descriptions, is the fact that each recipe comes with health info about what benefits you can get from eating each particular recipe. Those fudge brownies? Not only do they improve your mood (well, that’s a given, right?), they also boost your metabolism, are heart healthy, AND anti-cancer. Now. Who would have thought a little brownie could fight cancer? To be honest, I feel like I’m taking these claims in the spirit they are intended – these brownies aren’t going to cure cancer, or even stop you getting it – but let’s face it, if you’re passing up a full butter, white sugar version for this honey-sweet, whole-wheat version (with added applesauce!), then you’re going to give your health a bit of a boost.

So, onto the recipes I’ve actually tried. I’ve modified a few of them, so I’ll talk about substitutions or changes, and give my impressions of each one below. After writing out this list, it’s become apparant to me how much I actually use this book, as there are some cook books I own that I’ve never made anything out of…

Steel-cut oats with apples and pecans

Steel-cut oats cooked with almond milk, and topped with cooked apple with cinnamon and maple syrup, and toasted pecans. I substituted steel-cut oats for porridge oats, and found that cooking apples were probably better here than eating apples, which didn’t break down and stayed as solid lumps. However, this is a really tasty breakfast – although at 280 cals, was quite high for me.

Greek yogurt cup with quinoa crunch and berries

Berries atop greek yogurt, drizzled with honey and topped with a mixture of quinoa, flaxseed, honey and olive oil, which has to be toasted in the oven. I bought flaxseed just for this, to try it out, and the combo of the flaxseed and quinoa had an interesting, slightly dusty taste with a tang of nutty, almost sunflower seed aftertaste. You end up with a lot of the quinoa crunch, and if you’re the only one eating it, then the listed storage time will run out faster than you can eat it – although I’ve stored it longer than that and had no problems. This is 216 calories, most of which come from the crunch topping.

Multigrain pancakes with berry-maple syrup

American pancakes made with rolled (porridge) oats, whole-wheat flour, almond milk, yogurt, buckwheat flour and cinnamon, served with berries softened in maple syrup. I’m a huge fan of buckwheat pancakes, so I really wanted to try this – and I love maple syrup, too! You end up with three small pancakes and 1/3 cup of berries per serving, for 340 calories, so this is fairly high. The recipe also makes enough for 6, so I’ve frozen some – we’ll see what happens when I defrost them! This is what I’d break out for a ‘special’ breakfast, but when I made them the first time, we ate far more than the serving size, as I didn’t find them all that filling. They were tasty, in a wholesome ‘you can feel this is good for you’ kind of a way.

Curried salmon salad pita pockets

This makes enough for two, so was a ‘make two, eat one now and save the other for tomorrow’ deal for me. It’s a combination of tinned pink salmon with yogurt, onion, honey, lemon and curry powder, on top of lettuce and cucumber in a pita pocket. Very tasty, although I’m always a bit weary of curried fish. This was definitely filling, thanks to the addition of the salad, for 264 calories.

Chicken salad with red grapes and toasted pecans

This is one of my favourites. For a start, I’m a fan of American style chicken salad, with grapes and a mayo dressing. Not surprisingly, this ditches the mayo in favour of yogurt, honey and cider vinegar, and bulks out with celery. You can either eat this as a half cup for 118 calories, or as a sandwich for 209 calories, and I thought it was delicious. The serving size was a bit small, though, but with the low calorie count, you can definitely double up!

Broiled tilapia with fresh herbs, mushrooms and tomatoes

This was probably the only recipe that actually disappointed me. I’m not sure what I was expecting, as the recipe is fairly simple – just fresh herbs, garlic, oil, and lime juice, and grilled fish with tomatoes and mushrooms. Very clean tasting – but definitely the sort of food you think ‘diet time!’ when you eat. Low in calories for a main meal, though, at 236 calories – but that doesn’t include carbs.

Black bean chilli

Of all the recipes in this book, this is the one I was most intrigued to try, because it’s the one that I’ve heard Jillian mention. I make a damn good chilli myself, that I love, which is about 448 calories per serving, not including rice. So, that’s pretty high! But Jillian’s is a carb fest, with black beans, thickened with bulgur wheat (which is listed as ‘medium-grind bulgur’ – I hope I substituted correctly!), so no need for additional rice – plus, it’s 297 calories a serving. It’s got a blend of spices and herbs including chilli, cumin, oregano, garlic, cinnamon and pepper, and also contains onions, green peppers, canned tomatoes, honey and orange juice. The main reason for me delaying making this for so long (I’ve had the book for over a year, and only made the chilli this weekend) was the addition of chopped chipotle chilli in adobo, which is a smoked jalapeno pepper in tomato sauce. I still haven’t found any of these, so I substituted a dried, then reconstituted, chipotle chilli. You could also probably use smoked paprika for the same kind of effect. Once you’ve made your chilli, the bulgur wheat makes it look pretty weird, and also soaks up all of the excess liquid, so it’s not runny at all. Again, the portion sizes are fairly small (the batch makes 8 servings), so when I made it, I bulked it up with a home-made salsa of chopped tomatoes, coriander, spring onions, lime juice and raw garlic. Jillian recommends you add toppings of non-fat yogurt, chopped spring onions, coriander and lime wedges anyway, so a spoon of salsa and 50g of non-fat yogurt did for me! It was fairly satisfying – again, one of those meals that tastes ‘wholesome’ rather than totally indulgently delicious.

Smashed sweet potatoes with coconut milk

I have to be honest and admit I don’t remember what this really tasted like.  Very basically, it’s mashed sweet potatoes and coconut milk, with a dash of cinnamon. I love sweet potatoes, so I have no doubt this went down a treat. Par for the course is Jillian’s dairy substitution for coconut milk, though!

Banana-almond smoothie

A blend of a banana, almond milk, almond butter, vanilla extract and ice cubes – Jillian also calls for ground flaxseed and I never add this – I just don’t really want to spoil the taste, because this is absolutely delicious. I’d go so far as to say this is actually better than a banana milkshake made with ice cream, which can be a bit too rich sometimes. I also have left out the almond butter, which doesn’t make a great deal of difference, but it’s definitely better with! I love this treat!

Oranges with lemon-vanilla yogurt cream

Another massive favourite of mine, this is really simple but so delicious. This is just a combination of plain yogurt, vanilla extract, lemon juice, honey, and an orange. You’re supposed to add lemon zest as well, but I often leave this out. As with many other recipes that call for Greek yogurt, I always just use normal, low-fat, plain yogurt. I can’t believe that such a seemingly simple mix of ordinary items can taste so good. Delicious!

Fudge brownies

A blend of honey, cocoa powder, white whole-wheat flour (I just used whole wheat flour, which I think is possibly the same thing!), apple sauce, olive oil and an egg, which is baked in a pan. Each brownie is 86 calories, and you can freeze these pretty well. They have a chewy, nutty texture, because of the flour, and are super sweet, because of the honey. They’re delicious – but they don’t have that crispy top, chewy bottom texture that real brownies have. I still really like these for a sweet treat, though – they’re great heated up and served with a scoop of low calorie ice cream!

So, there’s my review of the recipes I’ve created from this book. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to eat more healthily, or lose weight. Despite the lack of pictures, this is a lovely book – and I know Jillian often uses recipes from it in other projects, such as her new Body Revolution programme, and her Freshology delivered meals use some of the same recipes, too. Get a head start and get the book!

Make your own almond milk

Making Fresh Almond Milk

Image by QuintanaRoo via Flickr

I’m no health nut, and I’m definitely not a vegan, but I love soya, almond, coconut and rice milk. I recently bought Jillian Michaels’ excellent Master Your Metabolism Cookbook, and she asks you to replace your diary with other products – specifically not soy, for various reasons. So, I purchased a litre of coconut milk and one of almond milk (and then had to carry them home four miles from the shop, but that’s a whole other story!) and discovered how delicious almond milk was in porridge and banana smoothies. I’d never had it before, and realised precisely why this was when I got to the health food shop – firstly, it’s quite hard to find (only in health food shops and Waitrose, it seems!) and secondly, it’s a whopping £3.00 a litre… Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s quite a lot for me, so I was pretty pleased to discover that it’s really easy to make your own almond milk at home! I’m not saying it tastes better than shop bought – I think the shop bought stuff is sweeter, but at home it gets a bit worrying to continually add honey to your mix, so I stopped after three teaspoons! However, it’s definitely cheaper, as once you’ve bought yourself a nut milk bag, you end up paying about £1.60 or so for every litre – basically, the cost of your almonds.

So, the recipe!

EQUIPMENT

  • Blender
  • Nut milk bag (buy these on eBay if you find them hard to track down)
  • Bowl
  • Jug

INGREDIENTS

  • 220g almonds
  • Water, to cover
  • 1 litre water, to make milk (4 cups)
  • Vanilla extract, optional
  • Honey or other natural sweetner, optional

METHOD

  • Cover your almonds with water (I like to rinse mine first as well) and leave to stand overnight, for at least 8 hours, and up to 12.
  • Drain away the soaking water (I rinse here again) and add the nuts to a blender.
  • Pour in your four cups / 1 litre water, then blend well. Add in the vanilla extract and sweetner to taste, if using.
  • Pour the mixture into a nut bag over a bowl or wide jug, and strain. You’ll have to help the process along by squeezing the bag to get the excess moisture out.
  • Your nut milk is ready! Keep in the fridge, covered, for up to four days.

The leftover almond meal is great for adding fibre to porridge, cereal, etc!