Habits, hummus and honey...
This week we've got a whole lot to share! If you're one who struggles with unhealthy food habits - here's the pep talk you might just be grateful for.
Food habits – what are they and how do we kick them?
Inevitably when it comes to eating – we all have some pretty strong habits – some good for us – and others, perhaps not so good for us.
Habits, due to the very nature of them being things we do over an over, as a result, can sometimes be pretty hard to break.
Who's started out with a good intension saying "right – I’m going to kickstart my new habit – and cut out X – or I’m going to only eat Y for a month or – I want to lose weight – so I’m going to not give myself ANY treats."
This is all very well – but the likelihood of you sticking to it is pretty much zero. We all start off with good intentions – and after a week of craving more food and tummy grumbles, constantly lacking energy due to not eating enough – or fighting with that voice in our head telling us we just want to gorge on a whole loaf of toast laden with butter.
Ultimately – when we make too severe a change to our diet, they inevitably become unsustainable and before long – we slip back in to our old ways, undoing any of the good we did in the process.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has come up with a helpful system to help us assess our habits and look at whether they might be helpful or harmful as permanent change requires a thoughtful approach and not a brutal habit amendment in a fit of frustration.
First up is to reflect.
Write down a list of all of your food habits – e.g. do you eat 3 meals a day, do you skip breakfast, do you snack on a cheeky chocolate biscuit at elevenses – or do you starve yourself till supper, do you eat at the speed of a racehorse.
Often we tell / half kid ourselves we have good food habits and then when we actually come to look at what we REALLY do and man do we realise we’ve snuck in an extra snack here – and skipped this meal for 3 days in a row and only then do we really understand our habits.
Try and keep a food diary for a week – writing down everything you eat. Once you have this it then can give you a solid picture of your food intake.
There’s a diary you can download and use from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention here. Or just use a notebook or piece of paper! Doesn’t need to be complicated!
It can also be worth writing down how you felt when you ate what you ate. As this can help us sometimes understand WHY we are eating. Are we eating out of boredom, are we eating because we’re stressed or are we actually just eating because we’re hungry. All of them are right answers – it’s just good to keep the score and bring awareness to when we fuel our bodies.
Once you have this list of foods and habits – look at how you actually engage with food. Do you eat fast, do you sit eating slumped in-front of the TV, do you eat standing up, do you always eat when you’re not hungry etc.
Note all of these things that come up.
Then look at the habits that are unhealthy – e.g. eating too fast or eating on the go rather than taking time to have a meal, look at the ones you’d like to change.
At the same time – look at the good habits – e.g. three solid meals a day, always eating 3 vegetables at each meal, eating ‘good’ types of fats etc. It is important to celebrate the things we do well as well as the things we could improve on. Try not to look at labelling your habits as GOOD or BAD.
Next take a look at why you are eating – e.g. is it environmental triggers like having your coffee sitting right next to the biscuit jar, only buying unhealthy snacks to fill your cupboards, not planning what you will eat for the next meal and getting too hungry so grabbing anything you can find, sitting in front of the TV, mindlessly snacking, as a result of feeling guilty.
It’s easy to struggle with the ‘oh I’ve eaten badly today – it’s ok – I’ll do better tomorrow’. Sometimes we do need to just write the day off – but other times we need to say no, I need to start now and catch your habit and cut it off in it’s tracks. E.g. you’ve eaten 2 doughnuts and you want a 3rd. Stopping yourself from eating the third rather than saying – oh well, I’ve already eaten 2 so another isn’t going to make much difference.
Every time we stop ourselves we give a message to our brain that we are in control of our situation, not the other way round.
When you’ve identified the things that trigger you to eat – see if there are things that you could:
1. Do differently – e.g. could you sit in
a different place to drink your coffee rather than by the biscuit tin
2. If you can’t change avoid the trigger, is there something you can do differently that would have a healthier impact? E.g. if you always grab food on the go – can you make a commitment to sit down and eat at each meal?
Second step – Replace.
Replace any unhealthy habits you’ve identified with new healthy ones. But when I say new healthy habits, I mean ones that are achievable. Ridding your house of anything that gives you satiable pleasure when you eat it, is not an achievable long-term switch.
Perhaps something like if you recognise you eat fast – is that when you are on your own? If so – could you aim to have a meal with a colleague, or a friend or family member – and spread the time over which you eat out more?
Simple ones which are likely to come up are eating out of boredom – so being conscious to eat only when you’re actually hungry – and if you want to eat – maybe try going for a walk to distract you and switch up your energy.
Finally - Reinforce.
As we all know, Rome WASN’T built in a day – and so don’t expect your food habits and your relationship with those habits and food to change overnight.
The key to habit change is awareness Noticing when you are engaging in an unhealthy habit. When you become aware – you can then stop yourself.
Start to ask yourself a few questions – why am I doing this?
What changes can I make to turn this unhealthy habit in to a healthy habit.
And remember – be kind to yourself – if you forget – don’t beat yourself up and
think the rest of the day wasn’t worth it because you missed one healthy habit. Remember one day at a time and find something which is positive to reward yourself – like a 5 minute break from whatever you are doing – or a nice cup of tea or something to reinforce the positive change you are making.
The sweet nectar delivered to us by the wonderful bees.
Honey is a great natural ingredient that can be used as an excellent substitute for sugar whether in your tea, coffee, baking or on your porridge.
Different types of honey
There are heaps of different types of honey – which depends on the botanical origin – i.e. which flower it has been made from – clover, lavender, acacia, Manuka etc.
High quality honey has been show to have good antioxidant levels. Antioxidants are linked to reduced risk of heart attacks, strokes and some types of cancer.
It is important to note that even though honey is a natural ingredient and a healthier alternative to sugar – it is not considered healthy for people with diabetes and should be consumed carefully as it is still high in sugar and calories.
Honey should always only be consumed in moderation – but if you are looking for something to swap out sugar for, honey is a good natural alternative.
Honey has also shown to have a positive impact in lowering bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and raising good cholesterol levels (HDL). Bad cholesterol is responsible for leading to heart attacks and strokes.
What is Manuka honey?
Manuka honey is thought of a little like the king of honeys. It has a huge number of beneficial properties making it antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant benefits. It has long been used as a traditional remedy for wound healing, soothing sore throats, improving digestive issues and preventing tooth decay.
It is produced in New Zealand from bees that pollinate the bees that pollinate the native leptospermum scoparium bush which is also known as a tea tree.
It’s protective antibacterial properties however depend on how and when it is harvested.
The property of Manuka honey which is important is the level of the methylglyoxal (MGO) compound found in it. The higher the MGO concentration in the honey, the better the antibacterial effect.
How do I know whether the Manuka honey I buy is good?
The UMF (unique Manuka factor) is a rating that is used to describe the level of MGO, DHA (dihydroxyacetone) and leptosperin present in the honey. For Manuka honey to be considered as a medicinal product, it needs to have a minimum rating of UMF 10+ although, there is some debate around whether this rating means anything from a medical perspective.
The scoring system for a UMF range is as follows:
0 to 4: an undetectable amount is present
5 to 9: low levels are present
10 to 15: useful levels are present
16: superior, high-grade levels are present
When it comes to an MGO reading – it ranges from less than 83 for anything less than UMF +5 all the way up to 1900 for UMF +33
A UMF 10+ manuka honey has an MGO of 263
A UMF 15+ manuka honey has an MGO of 514
There is then the difference between monofloral and multifloral (meaning the honey has either come solely from a Manuka flower (monofloral) or has been blended with other honeys (multifloral).
Anything above UMF 5+ is a monofloral honey.
Where would carrot sticks be without hummus and hummus be without carrot sticks!?
A Middle Eastern treasure that deliciously creamy and made from chickpeas, ground up sesame seeds and a few other goodies. It’s hugely versatile and packed full of goodness so it’s actually a food that you don’t have to slap your own wrist when you go for that last one, two or three dips.
Hummus is a blend of chickpeas, tahini (ground sesame seed paste), olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic and here are some of its most nutritious benefits:
1. Packed with plant-based protein - supplying 7.9 grams per serving making it a good substitute for those following vegetarian or vegan diets as consuming enough protein is important for optimal growth.
2. Helps reduce inflammation - Good quality hummus is packed full of olive oil (always check the label as a lot of hummus is made with rapeseed oil).
Olive oil is rich in powerful anti-oxidants which have anti-inflammatory benefits. Sesame seeds which are supposed to reduce inflammation markers associated with arthritis and chickpeas have been shown to help reduce blood markers of inflammation.
3. High in fibre to help keep your gut in check. Chickpea fibre as also been shown to promote healthy gut bacteria.
4. Lastly – hummus may help to control blood sugar levels.
Chickpeas have a low glycaemic index. This means that they are slowly digested and absorbed meaning they don’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels.
Great for people with intolerances or allergies as it is nut, dairy and gluten free.
What to watch
Hummus is great – but remember it’s what you’re eating it with that might not be so great.
A fab addition to hummus is carrot or cucumber sticks – of course these are beneficial too – but often people will gorge a tub of hummus with some crisps or toasted pitted – of course these have less beneficial effects on our bodies. So just a word of eating – enjoy hummus but just make sure what you eat it with is also as nutritious.
Quick eats: Simple hummus recipe
Try this super simple recipe for hummus - it's so cheap, quick and easy to make at home and tastes delicious.
(250 grams) cooked tinned chickpeas (60 ml) fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon) (60 ml) well-stirred tahini 1 small garlic clove, minced 2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin Salt to taste 2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 45 ml) water Optional: Dash ground paprika or sumac, for serving
Blend tahini and lemon in a food processor for a minute to get it nicely whipped
Then add the garlic, olive oil, cumin and salt and blitz some more.
Add half of the chickpeas - blend and then add the rest and blend some more until really thick and creamy. Finish by adding water and giving a final blitz.
Serve drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkling of ground paprika.
Recipe taken from: https://www.inspiredtaste.net/15938/easy-and-smooth-hummus-recipe/