Spanish style smoked paprika, chicken and butterbean stew

With summer in full fledge, what better way to celebrate than with a siesta and a fiesta of flavour? This warming stew can easily feed the whole family or provide lunches/dinners for the week too. I paired mine with sweet potato topped with cinnamon and smoked paprika as a post workout meal, but would also work well with rice or chopped, panfried chorizo for a lower carb, higher fat alternative.

stew

Serves 4

Nutritional Information per portion; 302kcal, 32g protein, 32.7g carbs, 3g fat

Ingredients

  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp fresh, chopped rosemary
  • 2 large zucchinis/courgettes, sliced
  • 5 large handfuls of kale
  • 1 can of butterbeans, drained
  • 16oz chicken breast, sliced
  • 1 can of Trader Joes fire roasted chopped tomatoes (other brands are fine, but I would suggest adding a tsp of chopped chilli/lazy chilli if using plain chopped tomatoes)
  • 1/2 can of water (use the tomato can)

Method

  1. In a large non-stick pan, add the onion, garlic, half of the paprika and rosemary. Cook for about 5 minutes, over a medium heat, until the onion is soft. Add the chicken and cook until the chicken is sealed.
  2. Add the other tbsp of paprika and ensure the chicken is fully coated. Add the zucchini and kale and cook for approximately 10 minutes, or until the courgettes/zucchini has softened and the kale has wilted.
  3. Add in the butterbeans, tomatoes and water and simmer the stew until it has ‘knitted together’ and the sauce is nice and thick.
  4. Serve immediately and enjoy your Spanish taste of summer!

7 tips to avoid the post holiday bloat

Going on holiday brings so much excitement – a break from the daily grind, a chance to relax and explore new territories and a chance to spend plenty of time with friends and family. Often, people try to ‘tone up’ and ‘lose weight’ ready for a holiday and head off looking their best. After a week or two of indulgences and justification ‘well, we are on holiday after all’, the condition you have worked so hard for can quickly fade away. Post holiday blues are enough without feeling bloated and uncomfortable. Now, I definitely think holidays are a time to enjoy yourself, but they should not be a ‘screw it, let’s eat everything mentality’ time either. Having recently travelled back to the UK for 2 weeks and enjoyed many a cherry bakewell, chocolate, mushy peas and lots of eating out/takeaway food but without gaining any weight, I will share my top tips on holiday fun without post holiday flab…

  1. Bring snacks. Either pack them in your suitcase or stock up on snacks and make sure your handbag always carries a couple. For me, I bought a tub of whey protein, a jar of peanut butter and a box of protein bars. I carried around protein and protein bars with me throughout my holiday and they were a convenient ‘go to’ whenever I was hungry. Plus, you won’t have to continually stop your activities; socialising with family to respond to your stomach!
  2. Accept that you are not going to be able to stick to your usual eating plan completely. For me, I still tracked macros on MyFitnessPal and made use of flexible dieting. I ensured I hit my protein target each day and didn’t worry too much about my carbs or fats, just ensured I stayed around about my calorie goal. But you don’t have to do this either, just be mindful of what you are eating.
  3. Plan your indulgences. If you are going out for a meal in the evening and you have a favourite food or want to try a local dish, plan for it. Eat ‘cleaner’ during the day – choosing lean proteins and vegetables, and save the bulk of your calories for the evening.
  4. Keep water intake high. If you are eating out a lot, chances are the foods will contain a lot more sodium than you are typically used to consuming. This makes the body hold onto water, and will leave you feeling bloated. Plus, travelling on planes always dehydrates my skin (especially my nostrils!). The more water you drink, the less your body holds onto it. So drink up!
  5. Eat when you are hungry and not for the sake of it. Especially at all inclusive buffets. Don’t eat until you feel sick!
  6. Use the holiday vibe to plan activities. Even if you are staying on a beach all week, are there many things more beautiful than a sunset stroll along the beach? If you are on a city break, chances are that you will be doing a lot of walking anyway so the steps all add up!
  7. Finally, if you follow these tips but do put on weight, don’t be too hard on yourself. I expect a lot of it will be water weight anyway so after a week or so back in your normal routine, it will go! Holidays are a time to make memories, to relax and to take a break from your everyday life. This goes for your eating regime too.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Why reverse dieting is my best friend

“Reverse dieting?” When I first heard those two words next to each other, I genuinely thought someone was having me on. We are so accustomed to hearing about all these ‘diets’ and most of the time, we associate ‘diet’ with shedding unwanted fat or by emarking on a lifestyle which emphasises eating of certain foods, or food groups, and restricting others. The concept of reversing a diet seemed absurd to me. But, reverse dieting over the past 6 months has shown me what amazing things our bodies can do!

Having dieted for more than 20 weeks on a very calorie restricted diet with long periods of cardio and weight training, my metabolism and hormones were not where they should be. There is plenty to read online about ‘getting competition ready’, with numerous hints, tips and viewpoints. There is very little information however, about afterwards. Afterwards, in my opinion, is 100 times harder than the preparation. You have met your goal, you have had all the hype, you’ve eaten whatever food you were craving….now what?

The morning after my photoshoot, I woke up and felt utterly miserable. I was severely bloated from eating 2 pieces of Cheesecake Factory cheesecake (no mean feat!), chocolate, chips and pizza. I was also lost. What was I meant to eat? What was I meant to train? I felt empty. I had worked so hard for 6 months, focused on my goal. Now what? I fully knew that being as lean as I was, was neither sustainable nor healthy, but I didn’t know what the next step was. Should I eat my peak week diet? Still do all the cardio? After about a week of this uncertainty, with my body ballooning at whatever I fed it, I sought advice, and was introduced to reverse dieting. Reverse dieting is when calories, specifically fats and carbohydrates, are periodically increased, while cardio decreased over a number of weeks. Obviously, in the first few weeks post photoshoot, my calories were still relatively low, with cardio still being relatively high, but there was still a substantial difference between my prep and afterwards. Sticking to a reverse diet at this point is difficult. It does require discipline as it is tempting to eat whatever. This is when I think IIFYM comes into play. Being able to have daily bits and pieces of whatever you fancy already makes you view the reverse diet as different from prep. And the thing is, if you stick to it, it is not only sustainable, but it works. Having a peak week diet of approximately 800 calories per day; I now eat between 1800 and 2050 calories per day. I have visible abs at times; my waist is 4cm smaller than 2 weeks post photoshoot and I weigh about 3lbs more. My whole body composition has changed. I loved the whole process of prep and would definitely do it again, especially having learned so much from my first experience. I just wish I had known about the aftermath before I embarked on my prep. My best advice; ensure someone reverse diets you properly. Be patient and stick to it. Be prepared for the reverse diet to take months, but it is totally worth it. You will be able to eat more and cardio less than you ever have done before.

Benchpressingbaubles, x

Life Additives: E-Numbers not included

One of the most salient lectures whilst studying for my teaching qualification was a lecture on positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement was not something I had ever really thought about until that lecture, but it is the most useful and successful behavior management tool I have used, day in, day out of my teaching career. Positive reinforcement is the concept of ‘catching’ children being good, so, instead of telling a child to “stop talking”, I would, instead, recognize all the other students who are silent. I typically do this by thanking individual children or phrasing the expected behavior as a question, e.g. ‘I wonder who can stand quietly, exactly like Lucy?’ It sounds ridiculous, but suggesting or thanking, good behavior works timelessly, whether the child is 5 or 11 years old. Everyone likes to be thanked, praised or recognized and this extends to adulthood too. A genuine thank you resonates far more than any monetary gift. In fact, it was teacher appreciation week which made me really appreciate the value in positivity and thank yous and it also got me thinking…could positive reinforcement be practiced in all aspects of our lives to enable us to be happier and healthier?

Change is always scary, it, by definition, means we are going to have to step out of our routine and into the unknown. Sometimes change chooses us and sometimes we choose change. If it is the latter option, we often enter into change feeling positive, but if change chooses us, we can definitely be left feeling overwhelmed. How about if we purely focus on what the change can ‘add’ to our lives rather than what ‘subtractions’ the change is going to result in? After all, we are not in control of the outcome, but we are in control of the process. For example, you have realized it is time to embark on a healthy lifestyle. Instead of eliminating sweets, chips etc. focus on what you are going to add in instead. So, are you going to add a vegetable to every meal? Are you going to start drinking a cup of green tea? Are you going to add in a run on a Sunday? How about if you are relocating to a new place for work or otherwise? Instead of focusing on the people, or things, you think you are going to miss, why not see it as an opportunity to add a new tourist or local experience to your ‘to-do’ list? Why not Yelp the best local coffee house or attraction in the area and suggesting meeting there with new neighbours or co-workers?

There are many aspects of our lives that are beyond our control, our mood and outlook on life is one of the few aspects we can dictate. Life can be daunting, so let’s not add to it with focusing on what we are without, or our subtractions, but, instead, let’s ease the daily struggles and embrace change with additives. And not the E-numbers kind.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

 

Why I hashtag IIFYM

IIFYM = If it fits your macros. It seems to be the ‘in’ thing in the health and fitness industry at the moment, and browsing the hashtag on Instagram gives you a very incomplete picture as to what this is all about. Now, I am not a personal trainer, nor a qualified health professional, so this is all based on my reading of articles/blogs and understanding of basic nutrition.

 

If it firs your macros is the concept that there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods and that provided you stay within your calorie goal, as well as within your protein, carbohydrates and fats (your macronutrients) you can eat whatever you like! Now there are some people who eat highly processed food for all their meals and follow this method to the extreme, but this is actually an incredibly tiny minority of people. Most people who hashtag IIFYM and follow that lifestyle, eat and follow an incredibly balanced lifestyle. Most of what you see on Instagram, as with anything, is heavily glamorised, after all, which would you rather see? Someone eating chicken and broccoli or a magnificent stack of pancakes with peanut butter, chocolate and doughnuts sandwiched inbetween?!

 

This time last year, I followed a diet plan assigned by my personal trainer and I would stick to it for maybe 5 days and then full on binge on all things sweet, devouring anything and everything in sight. Then be racked with guilt, eat egg whites for a day or so and then resume the cycle. When I began prepping for my photoshoot, I thought I would really struggle with the diet. I did get cravings, but actually I stuck to it for almost 21 weeks. My diet was tough, with carbohydrates being eliminated from my diet for the last 3 months. After my photoshoot, I was scared to eat. My body ballooned and I had caused metabolic damage from a combination of low carbohydrates and not reverse dieting. I went to someone for help and began to reverse diet properly. My reverse diet plan was so similar to my prep plan, I couldn’t stick to it with no end goal. So I began binging again. My confidence was non-existent. And then I got introduced to flexible dieting. It has saved me, my sanity and my confidence. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love ‘clean’ food, but I also don’t have the mental strength, nor desire, to deprive myself. The vast majority of my food is nutritious and densely packed with micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), but I also eat chocolate, sweets and bread too! I am still reverse dieting and am now eating more than double the calories that I was on prep, my carbohydrate consumption is pretty high and my weight is the same now as 3 weeks post photoshoot, but my body composition is completely different. I am still lacking in confidence, fearful of exceeding my calorie intake, eating out, eating anything I can’t ‘track’, but then I rememember where I was in December. I have made a tremendous amount of progress and am infinitely happier. So while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the 20% of ‘bad foods’ I consume in a week have enabled me to enjoy food again. And isn’t that what it is all about?

Benchpressingbaubles, x

Mini meatloaf muffins

Like every girl, actually scrap that, like every human on Instagram, I follow Paige Hathaway for inspiration, drooling and general appreciation. She posts some really great recipes, one of which inspired these meatloaf muffins. These are super simple, very macro friendly and are so easy to take with you anywhere!

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground turkey (I used 99% fat free Trader Joes mince)
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 5 celery stalks
  • 5 tbsp egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp Italian herbs
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger

Nutritional Information

(Per muffin, recipe makes 12 muffins): 60kcal; 11g protein, 3g carbs, 0.5g fat

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line a muffin pan with 12 baking cases.
  2. In a nutribullet/blender, add the oats, pepper, celery and egg whites and blend until the mixture has the consistency of hummus.
  3. In a large bowl, add the Nutribullet mixture, ground turkey, cumin, mustard seeds, paprika, pepper, salt, herbs, garlic powder and ginger.
  4. Combine well with your hands and roll into balls (if the mixture is too wet to form ‘complete’ balls, then use a large spoon to pour into the muffin cases).
  5. Bake for 40 minutes until cooked through and the top of the muffins are golden brown.
  6. Can be served hot immediately or allowed to cool on a wire rack and then served with a whole host of side dishes!

Guilt free salted chocolate fudge protein mousse

Chocolate mousse was forever one of the desserts I pestered my Mum to both make from scratch and buy at the supermarket. I have always had a sweet tooth and been particularly fond of chocolate so have experimented to create a completely guilt free version. This is a lot denser than traditional chocolate mousse, almost having the consistency of ganache. It is totally delicious, not overly sweet and great paired with fresh fruit and berries.

Ingredients

  • 1 large ripe avocado.
  • 2 scoops double fudge brownie Dymatize whey isolate.
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste.
  • 1 packet of stevia.
  • 2 tbsp cacao powder.
  • 1 pinch of sea salt.

Nutritional information

(Per serving – serves 2): 220kcal; 27g protein, 12g carbs, 15g fat

Method

  1. Peel and scoop out the avocado into a large mixing bowl.
  2. With an electric whisk, whisk the avocado until smooth. Add in the protein powder, vanilla bean paste, stevia, cacao powder and sea salt and continue whisking. You can increase the speed of the whisking as the mixture begins to combine. (Note, it will turn really thick immediately, don’t be tempted to add any liquid, it will ‘thin’ out).
  3. Spoon into two serving dishes and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  4. Top with berries, cream, or devour on its own!

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