Hi all! Welcome back. First of all, I wish youa happy, healthy and fulfilling 2021.
Let’stalk new year’s resolutions, shall we? Maybe you’ve already been setting resolutions for the past few years (and possibly choosing the same ones each year, without much success), or you’ve never been a huge fan but decided to give it a go this time.
Personally, I’m not too much into the new year’s resolution thing in particular, but I do believe in setting goals for a determined amount of time and keeping yourself accountable.
However, I do usually decide on a few goals for the year. In order to help you – and myself – keep up with your resolutions, I’ll be sharing some tips on how to set and achieve your goals this year as well as some examples of my own resolutions.
Tip 1: Choose a goal that is realistic
This one is quite obvious. You need to choose a goal that you can actually, realistically achieve.
If you set your goals too high, for instance working out every single day, or eating only nutrient dense, ‘healthy’ foods, you’re bound to fail, because it is not sustainable.
Same goes for goals for which a year’s time is simply not enough.
One of my goals this year, is to control my sugar (and alcohol) intake. Alcohol is not much of a problem for me: I don’t drink regularly. However, in December during the holidays (and my birthday!) I tend to drink a bit more often than usual. In order to prevent it from becoming a habit, I’ll drink only once a month (or less) for the rest of the year.
So, start small with something that is sustainable for you. For this reason, I’m personally more of a monthly resolution type of person as opposed to new year’s resolutions. You can adjust your goals for the month each time based on the progress you made, and ensure your goals are still fitting you and your situation.
Sugar on the other hand is more challenging for me. I get addicted to sugar quite easily. So, this year I’ll try my best not to get any sugary treats throughout the week. In the weekend, I treat myself on something fresh and delicious, like something from a local bakery or home-baked (instead of sponsoring the big supermarkets and their – usually less tasty and unfulfilling – packaged stuff.
As you can see, I don’t completely eliminate sugar or alcohol from my diet. I still have moments where I can enjoy these things, I’ll probably even enjoy them more, because I’ll be more mindful about them.
Keep in mind that resolutions are – and should be – different for everyone. If working out once a week is challenging for you, go for that. If losing kg seems too intimidating, try to start with 1. You don’t have to match other people’s resolutions because you think they’re better or more impressive. Maybe for you it’s a big achievement to have only 1 treat a day, or drink only once a week. This is about you and your chance for success.
Also, don’t be afraid to adapt your goals when they don’t fit you or your circumstances anymore. If gyms close down due to a pandemic, it’s not realistic anymore to go to the gym every week. If you’ve lost your job, you won’t be saving as much as you had wanted to (or at all). This doesn’t mean you should be giving up! Just adapt your resolutions to something that is sustainable.
Tip 2: Make your resolution as concrete as possible
Another tip is to formulate your resolutions as concretely as possible. Instead of ‘eating healthier’, ‘losing weight’, etc., go for something that is much more specific, so that it is easier to measure and hold yourself accountable. It also becomes less intimidating that way.
For example, I want to eat more beans and fish. Instead of setting this as my goal, which is hard to track and easy to forget about, I’ve decided I want to start eating both beans and fish at least once a week.
Now, I just have to track the goal weekly. On top of that, it will become a habit, which is important for sustainable progress.
So, instead of ‘eating healthier’ or ‘losing weight’, set more concrete goals, preferably based on behaviour instead of results. For instance: getting X amount of protein each day, drinking X amount of water, working out X times per week. Or, going for a walk everyday or drinking a cup of green tea daily.
Tip 3: Divide long term goals in steps, and set sub goals on the shorter term
Like I already mentioned, I’m more of a fan of short term (like monthly) goals compared to, or in addition to longer term goals.
Referring back to the last two tips, short term (sub) goals makes it easier to adapt term in order to ensure sustainability, and also easier to make them more concrete.
At the same time, short term goals are clearer (easier to grasp) and allow for more success experiences that motivate you to keep going.
I hope this helps! If you have any questions – or tips of your own – please share!
I know, it’s been a while since I last posted. I’ve been quite busy at work and with some other things, but I finally got around to making a new post for you.
Today, I’m sharing with you a strategy that I’ve used for years in order to do my grocery shopping during busy times – or anytime really.
For all of you who are busy, too, or maybe don’t want to go out to the shops too often because of social distancing, this post will hopefully be very helpful.
When busy, we all know how hard it can be to make healthy choices. After a long day of work, we ‘quickly’ go to the supermarket to get some last-minute groceries for dinner, only to realise that – of course – it is rush hour.
Doing groceries takes much longer than we had planned, and on top of that we are getting hungry. So we put a few extra snacks in our cart. And while we had planned to cook a healthy meal from scratch, we feel tired and decide to get some pasta and prepackaged sauce instead.
In order to stick to a fairly healthy diet in a flexible, not get overwhelmed by all of the things I need to get done, and not having to go to the supermarket at inconvenient hours, I’ve made myself a list of basic groceries I use on a weekly basis that I can refer to every week when shopping. I could not recommend this enough.
Using the list, not only do I have to shop for groceries only once a week, I don’t even need to think about them! It requires a bit of tracking and planning beforehand, but once you’ve established your list you’re all set.
What you’ll want to do is what types of breakfast, lunches and dinner you like to eat and calculate how much of each ingredient you use per week. You can then create your list of these ingredients and use them every week when shopping.
Of course, you won’t want to eat the exact same things every week. You’ll want to go for basic ingredients and condiments that you can mix and match in a variety of ways. Think various sources of protein, (fibre rich) carbs, fats and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
Weekly grocery list/meal plan
A few years ago, I started with the following list. I decided on how many times a week I would want to eat different types of protein, which I could then combine with a carb source from my stock and some fresh vegetables I would buy.
Carb source (usually the one on sale)
For carbs, each week I would usually buy something that’s on sale in a larger quantity. Dried carbs tend to last longer, so I would not eat all of the packets that week but steadily build or maintain a stock of different ingredients.
For vegetables, I aim for 250-300 g per day per person, so you’d have to calculate that for your situation. Then, I would choose as many different vegetables in season in as many colours as possible, which allows for variation in your meals and also makes sure you get in a variety of nutrients.
You can adapt this to your personal diet preferences and budget. Also, don’t be afraid to change your list after a while. Mine would look very different now, for instance, since I’ve been trying to eat vegan meals more often and I’ve started buying my meat online from a local farmer.
Here are some examples for flexitarian or vegan lists.
1x tofu or tempeh
1x meat replacement
1x meat replacement
Carb source (rice is a good option, combined with beans/peas it makes for a ‘complete’ protein source including all of the amino acids)
Obviously, this list includes only dinner. But you get the idea. You can apply the same thing to the ingredients you use during the rest of the day and for example stock up on things like sauces and oils every few months.
Adapt this list to whatever fits your needs and preferences, and don’t be afraid to step out of it occasionally. This strategy is meant to simplify shopping for groceries and making healthy eating more achievable, not to make your life and your food boring!
Also, grocery shopping with a list and can save you a lot of money, especially combined with these other strategies, and prevents food waste.
What would your list look like? Or do you have another strategy to do your grocery shopping efficiently? Share below!
Who doesn’t love a delicious stack of pancakes for breakfast? Especially if you love having something sweet to start your day, you probably enjoy eating pancakes for breakfast or brunch on a regular basis (although you can certainly make savoury versions as well!
Unfortunately, traditional pancake recipes are usually not very nourishing. Which is why prepackaged protein pancake mixes have recently gained a lot of popularity, especially in the fitness community. People are also swapping out plain white flour for, for instance, oat or coconut flour.
I found that pancakes from protein pancake mixes often turn out a little too sweet for my taste, and that they burn quite easily. On the other hand, just changing the flour type in regular pancake recipes results in a meal that won’t keep me full for long enough.
I decided to take the best of both worlds and create a pancake recipe that combines both fibre-rich oat flour and extra protein in the form of whey. On top of that, I added different types of seeds for healthy fats and even more fibre and protein. This ensures these pancakes are not only delicious (they don’t skimp on fat, which is essential for making your pancakes taste delicious.
I topped the pancakes with (seasonal) fruits and nuts, and optionally with a homemade, naturally sweetened vanilla cream.
For 2 servings:
1 cup oats or oat flour
2 scoops of whey protein* (e.g. vanilla flavour)
2 tbsp flax seeds
2 tbsp hemp seeds
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp baking powder
Optional: 1 tsp ground cinnamon
Optional: 1 tsp vanilla extract
About 1 cup of (regular or plant based) milk
*) Might also work with a vegan protein powder, but I haven’t tried that.
Making this batter is super easy. Simply add all of your dry ingredients to a blender and blend well, so that the oats have become oat flour and everything is well combined.
Then, add the vanilla extract and the liquid, slowly to control the consistency of the batter. You’ll want it to be thin enough that it spreads slightly (and you don’t have to “shape” the pancakes) but not so thin that it’s too liquid to stay in place.
Warm a non stick skillet over medium heat and spray with some cooking spray (a tiny bit of oil or butter will work too). Make sure the pan is at temperature before adding 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the batter (depending on how much you’ve thinned the batter and on how large you want the pancakes).
When the top of the pancakes are no longer fluid, you can turn the pancakes and bake them shortly on the other side. They need way less time on this side.
It’s important you remain patient and don’t turn the heat too high, as they will burn before the inside is cooked that way.
For toppings, you can make it as wild as you’d like. My personal favourites are apple with cinnamon, raisins, and walnuts – especially in the fall (use leftover pie filling!) – and sweetened yoghurt with berries and mixed nuts in spring and summer.
For the sweetened yoghurt/vanilla cream, simply mix some Greek yoghurt with a bit of honey(or other sweetener of your choice) and some vanilla extract. This healthy cream ensures you get in some extra protein and just tastes absolutely amazing, especially combined with the fruits and nuts.
I encourage you to try out any toppings that you like (let me know in the comments which ones I should try!). Healthy options include fruits, nuts and seeds, dark chocolate and peanut butter.
A few days ago I came across an ad that promoted a piece of clothing designed to make you sweat (excessively). Its promise: help you slim down by “melting” belly fat as a result of sweating up to three times as much, without exercising more or paying attention to diet.
Now, this made me feel extremely sad, to be honest.
Because the first thing that popped into my mind was that while this claim is clearly totalb*llsh*t, the fact that these products are being made, promoted and undoubtedly sold, means that people actually believe this stuff.
Instead, people should get a fair chance at improving their health, fitness and body composition if they wish to, which means they should be informed about what it means to get closer to their goals, how they should track them, and
That’s why I thought I’d discuss a few common misconceptions about what it looks like to have an “effective workout” or “make progress” on your goals: why are these not good indicators of physical progress, what purpose do they actually serve, and what indicators should you pay attention to while assessing your true progress?
Many people believe that if you’ve been sweating a lot during your workout session, this means that you must’ve had an effective workout.
All sweat is, is a way to cool down your body by releasing water from your body, which in turn evaporates. This happens during exercise, because generally your body heats up, but also when you are, for instance, in a sauna or when you eat spicy food.
If you’ve ever been to an area with a warm, humid climate, you’ll know that you’ll start sweating even without doing anything. At the same time, you may be working extremely hard in a cold environment, and not sweat at all.
Soreness, like sweating, is not necessarily an indicator of an effective workout. Soreness of muscles is caused by tiny tears in your muscle (which is required to make them stronger).
While some soreness after an intense workout is acceptable, you should not be sore for days on end after every single workout. This is probably just a sign that your body is not recovering optimally and you’re either working out too much/too intensely, or not optimizing recovery in terms of nutrition, bloodflow (e.g. active recovery like walking), etc.
I notice that when I work out more frequently, and don’t take it too far, I don’t really get sore anymore while at the same time making the best progress.
Muscle soreness is most likely to occur when you haven’t been training in a while or when you’re doing something very different from what you’re used to. It takes your body time to adapt to its new requirements, which is why you get sore. That is also why, like I said, soreness may start to reduce significantly when you’ve gotten used to a workout routine.
And that’s not a bad thing, as long as you challenge yourself: it just means you’re recovering well from your training and can therefore train properly the next time, too. If something works for you, don’t be too anxious to change it.
Sure, some variety in your training is probably a good idea, but don’t switch it up every week or even every training session. You’ll want to stick to a few effective, basic exercises in order to track progress. Of course, if you’re doing some of the same exercises each week, say squats, bench press and deadlifts, you can vary a little more in your other (accessory) exercises if that’s what you prefer.
The one thing that soreness can be an indicator of, however, is the specific muscles that you’ve been targeting. So, for instance, if you’re trying to work your glutes by doing squats, and that’s where you get sore, you’re effectively targeting that muscle. But, if you get sore everywhere else but there, it might mean that you need to either change your form during the exercise, or find an exercise better suited to your goals.
Other things that may influence muscle soreness, are properly warming up before a workout (which you should!), stretching afterwards, using saunas, and doing some active recovery during rest time (like walking instead of just being sedentary).
Although measuring body weight is the way most people probably track their fitness progress, you should take the numbers on the scale with a grain of salt.
Especially when overweight or obese, it’s understandable that people pay a lot of attention to the weight on the scale, and weight certainly is related to health to some degree. However, it’s influenced by many factors.
While you’ll initially lose weight, as you start to exercise and get stronger, you may notice that your weight loss rate will slow down or stop at some point. Eventually, it may even start to increase again.
This is not because you’re becoming less fit again, on the contrary: you’ve probably been building muscle, which is causing the gain in weight. Muscle is heavier than fat when compared for volume. In other words, you can be ‘thinner’ and weight more at the same time, if you have managed to substitute muscle for fat.
Additionally, your weight fluctuates as a result of sodium (salt) intake, inflammation, your period, whether you’ve gone to the bathroom or not, etc. That’s why weighing yourself every single day is not the most reliable method for tracking weight loss in the long run, anyway.
What does indicate a good workout, then?
If you can’t rely on sweatiness, soreness and weight, what should you pay attention to instead?
When it comes to cardiovascular fitness (endurance) or calorie expenditure, a good indicator is your heart rate. Increasing your heart rate means you’re burning more calories. As you get fitter in terms of cardiovascular health, you’ll be able to perform at the same level with a lower heart rate. In other words, you get better at the activity and don’t need as much energy to perform it (it feels easier).
Note: this does not mean that cardio is inherently a better workout for weight/fat loss! While you may burn more calories during an intense cardio/HIIT session, building muscle means you’ll be burning more calories during the other 23 hours of your day, even when sleeping. But that’s a topic for another day!
Strength and muscle building
Strength training progress can be measured by performance. If you notice you’re getting stronger over time (the same weights feel easier, you can do them for more repetitions, or you are able to increase the weight for the same amount of reps), it obviously means you’re getting stronger and it usually means you’re building muscle (although not exactly the same, the two go hand in hand).
If you’re frequently training within 1-2 reps shy of failure, you should be at a good place to build muscle. Failure is the point where you can no longer perform the exercise with proper form, so stop when the movement gets heavy and you’d be able to do 1-2 more repetitions. This ensures you’re making enough effort to progress over time.
I can do a blog post on the number of exercises, sets and repetitions I recommend if that’s something you’d like to read. Let me know in the comments!
For tracking body composition (the amount of fat versus fat-free mass (including muscle) in your body), instead of relying (only) on the scale, try taking progress pictures. Often, you can see visual progress over time, even if the scale is not moving much. You’ll be able to see you’re getting more toned and see your proportions balance out (e.g. less volume around the belly, firmer legs, chest and arms), something the scale doesn’t telll you.
Another indicator of progress is the ease with which you perform (heavy) bodyweight movements, such as push-ups and pull ups, since these get easier as you get stronger and lighter.
The key to making progress
The most important thing when it comes to progressing, is putting in the work. You need to put in the effort and challenge yourself, if you’ve done that, you’ve had an effective session. Not every single training needs to be your best so far, and there will be days that you’re a little bit weaker than the previous training.
Don’t forget that your health and fitness are a long term thing, and you nead to develop healthy habits for the long run in order to keep making progress.
You’re trying to live a healthy and productive lifestyle. You’re exercising daily, eating healthy, working hard and maintaining realtionships with friends, family and (possibly) your significant other. You’re quite happy.
You feel hasty, somewhat stressed, and maybe even experience some discomfort in several parts of your body – lower back pain, cramped muscles, tight shoulders…
You’re not alone. I’ve been there. I’ve suffered from lower back pain for many years, experienced overtraining, dealt with insomnia, and felt restless throughout the day. But I found a way to improve my quality of life significantly.
As you’ll have guessed from the title, this way is by doing yoga.
I know, getting into a habit – daily or at all – may seem intimidating. Many of us have an all-or-nothing-mindset, which prevents us from starting a new habit because we’re afraid we can’t live up to our own ideals or expectations.
The thing is, you need to start small. You don’t need to take it from zero to a hundred immediately. You don’t have to start practising the habit you’re looking to develop for an hour every single day. But you do need to start somewhere.
For years, a ‘zen’ activity such as yoga was way out of my comfort zone. And as a restless teenager, I might not have been mentally ready for it. But counter to my expectations, I started loving it.
Let me tell you how it started for me and, more importantly, why you should give it a try.
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Resistance training is the first form of exercise I would recommend for those wanting to become fitter, lose weight, or feel better in their own skin in general.
Especially as we get older, it is extremely important that we keep working our muscles in order to stay healthy, something that’s not necessarily self-evident with many of us working desk jobs for most of the day. Muscle itself, once we’ve gained it, burns calories for us (even when sleeping) and helps us perform daily tasks more comfortably.
However, there needs to be a balance.
Not only in the different skills and types of movement we practice, but also in our mind and body in general. Being and feeling balanced allows us to move – both figuratively and literally – through our day.
To me, balance means feeling in tune with my body so that I can try and steer my actions and thoughts in a way that best supports me.
Here’s where the habit of practising yoga comes in.
How I started
About a year and a half ago, while I was working on my master’s thesis, my lower back pain started to become even worse than usual. Which was not surprising.
Not only was I sedentary for most of the day, I was working on my laptop in a not so back-friendly position on the couch. While this was comfortable at first, it was not optimal for my body overall.
I did work out at the gym most days, so at least I was moving every day, but some muscles (especially the glutes) had started to cramp. Not only during exercise, but during daily activities as well.
In order to incorporate a little more movement into my day, apart from walking daily which was beneficial to my back pain, I started doing some stretching. I noticed that gaining flexibility in my glutes and hamstrings made it easier to move without having to bend my lower back, resulting in a lot less pain.
I wondered what else would improve if I made stretching a daily habit.
So I started following along with yoga workouts on YouTube and learning about movement combinations. Soon, I felt comfortable enough to decide which poses and stretches I benefited most from, and created a flow for myself to do in the mornings.
Turns out, I experienced many more benefits than reduced lower back pain.
Checking in with my body and its needs for the day
Before starting to do yoga every morning, I would get up and feel pretty fine. But throughout the day I started to experience more and more back pain or other discomfort, without knowing directly where it came from.
Later, beginning every day checking in with myself, both with individual body parts and with my body as a whole as well as with my mindset that morning, I noticed I could identify more easily where I needed some extra love and attention that day.
I can now predict quite well what kind of discomfort I can expect on a given day based on what my body felt like in the morning. For instance, if my abs or glutes aretight or sore, I know that my back was going to hurt more than usual. And tight shoulders meant chances of developing headaches throughout the day.
I also pay attention to my energy and thoughts first thing in the morning. Am I feeling anxious, stressed, or relaxed?
With this knowledge, I can take my body’s needs into account throughout the day. For example, by making an effort to stretch a bit during the day, carefully choose my workplace for the day (a quality chair or standing desk instead of the couch), or even do an extra yoga session, if I am feeling specifically tight. Or by doing some breathing exercises or schedule some alone-time when feeling anxious.
The good thing is: you don’t need to do all kinds of complicated movements or stretches to experience this benefit. Just take a moment to truly pay attention and use your senses to get an idea of your state of being for the day.
It is very relieving to be up to date on where your body’s at and it feels good to be able to give it what it needs. This alone will greatly improve your quality of life, which is why I highly recommend it.
In line with the previous benefit of analysing the state of your boyd and mind in the morning, I could adapt my behaviour so that I would experience minimal discomfort throughout the rest of the day, and the days after.
I got used to the way my body was actually supposed to feel.
Crazy, right? We’re so used to feeling the way that we do, and we think that being tired and experiencing headaches or other types of pain are just how it is – we can’t do much about it.
But we can. and we should.
By modifying my day to day actions, I find that I don’t suffer as much from lower back pain and my neck and shoulers aren’t as tight, which in turn results in fewer headaches and more energy.
I learned that being in pain or discomfort is not normal, and that we owe it to ourselves to treat our bodies with the love that it deserves so that we can move through life as comfortably as we can. Because life is hard enough as it is, isn’t it?
Feeling of being in control of my day
With my habit of practising yoga in the mornings came the habit of starting a slow-paced morning routine that allowed me to calm my mind before jumping into the hectic of the day. I made it a habit to not check my phone for the first hour after getting up. After yoga, I started making tea and reading a bit before finally looking at my phone.
Starting the day with newly received messages, requests, and responsibilities is a great way to make sure you’re feeling rushed from the moment you get out of bed.
When I do this, not only do I feel hasty and anxious in the morning, I’m also more likely to forget checking in with myself throughout the day. So when things finally become too much for me, it is already too late.
However, now that I’m able to start my day quietly and on my won terms, I notice that I feel a lot more in control of my day. I know what I need to pay special attention to for that day, which reminds me to check in throughout the day to see how it’s going.
This way, I’m able to make better decisions and I feel like I’m a nicer and calmer person overall, since I get stressed a lot less easily.
Progress in the gym
Practising yoga has even helped me improve on other health and strength goals, and for several reasons.
For one, my muscles started recovering better and don’t cramp up as easily. Better recovery means that I can train the same muscle more frequently (and possibly inherently better muscle growth as well).
Secondly, I was able to increase my range of motion on certain movements because of increased mobility, which allows me to perform exercises better with a lower risk of injury, in turn beneficial for hyperthrophy (≈muscle gain) and building strength.
Finally, the better decision-making I mentioned, also applied to making food-related choices. Making healthy choices became easier, as well as intermittent fasting (=eating within a given timeframe each day and fasting during the rest of it). This is probably because I tend to eat when bored or stressed, which I now had other, better ways to cope with.
Lastly, as a result of the relaxing effects of yoga, of my being in control of my food decisions more, and of specific yoga movements, I noticed that my digestion improved.
For instance, when I practise yoga regularly, I feel less bloated and I can handle certain foods more easily. I also get back on track more easily when I’ve eaten too much or when I have consumed alcohol.
Adaptations along the way
Admittedly, for a few months I’ve been a lot less consistent with my morning yoga. But, this has only reminded me of why I need to stick to it.
It is easy to take for granted our state of being when things are going well, and to neglect doing those things that got us there in the first place.
That is why I’ve started to reincorporate yoga into my daily routine recently, and I’m already starting to notice the benefits. This only proves to my how much of a difference it actually makes in how I’mm feeling day to day.
Since starting my yoga journey, I’ve also made some changes to my routine. Currently, I basically have to flows/routines that I choose from each morning, based on how I’m feeling.
For both, I start in a seated position, loosening up the nack and shoulders and doing some movements to stimulate digestion. Afterwards, I do either of these:
A flow based on the sun salutation, incorporating stretches that I know will make me feel good throughout the day. I try to prioritise this flow over the other, as it allows me to better tune in with my body, feel where it’s tight or tired, and gets me moving.
A set of stretches while lying down, in order to improve digestion and hamstring & glute flexibility. I did this one a lot when just getting back into yoga, and on days where I’m especially tired or sore. It’s a good way to tune in with my body at least somewhat, and start my day quietly, while not feeling overwhelmed or discouraged by the idea of needing to do a more elaborate flow.
If you’re looking for suggestions, my favourite channel on YouTube – especially if you’re just starting out – is Yoga With Adriene. She has a few great 30-day challenges (that you don’t necessarily need to do 30 days in a row, obviously), which are fantastic to get familiar with (different kinds of) yoga.
The most important thing is to find what feels good, as Adriene likes to say. That is, find out what works for you and what makes you feel and perform your best, not just physically but mentally. Because that is what I wish for you, too.
Have you tried to do yoga yet or are you planning to?
So, you kinda want to start eating healthier. And you sorta have an idea about what dishes you should include in your diet. But aren’t all of those high-protein products and superfoods just so expensive?
As we all know, crucial for a healthy lifestyle are not only exercise but a healthy diet, too. Unfortunately, some people feel that it is toodifficult, complicatedandtime consuming to make healthy choices. On top of that, it seems that often healthy options that are also convenient are quite a bit more expensive than sugary, processed foods.
I’m here to tell you that it is actually a lot more simple than you may think.
And that you CAN totally do it.
Keep reading to learn about my top four strategies to stick to a healthy diet, even on a budget, and not get overwhelmed by it.
Cook at home
Many of you have probably gotten more used to cooking from home, since restaurants closed down during lockdowns in most countries. Maybe you’ve even discovered that you enjoy creating your own meals!
No need to give up this habit (completely) after all this is over. In fact, cooking your meals at home is one of the best ways to make your meals healthier and still very tasty on a budget.
And it doesn’t have to be complicated!
Get comfortable with a few simple, versatile dishes that you can fall back on. I personally like to cook, but during a busy week I’ll usually stick to my quick and easy go-to recipes like stir-fries, soups and oven dishes (which take a little longer, but that’s mostly passive time once you’ve assembled the ingredients), or simply get leftovers from homemade dishes from the freezer.
I always make sure to include a variety of vegetables, some protein and some (preferably fibre-rich) carbs. It is important to also include some healthy fats in the form of, for instance, olive oil, nuts or seeds, which I usually do automatically for cooking my foods or for adding flavour.
Find out what type of dishes you like and are feasible to make from scratch. Once you’ve gotten into the habit, it becomes easier and easier and you’ll be able to enjoy your favourite meals anytime and at a very low cost!
Make your own herb and spice mixes
While your at it, don’t forget to ad flavour to your food so you enjoy your healthy meals even more. If you already cook at home regularly, you’ve probably gotten used to adding sauces, pastes or pre-prepared spice mixes to your dishes.
Adding these types of seasoning can certainly be a great way to make eating certain foods, like vegetables, more enjoyable to eat.
Unfortunately, not only do they tend to cost more than they should, they usually contain a ton of added salt, sugar and preservatives, which you should try to minimize in your diet. Nowadays, you can also find unsalted spice mixes in mosts supermarket, but these tend to be more expensive than their salted counterparts.
For a few years, I have tried to recreate flavour combination with individual dried herbs and spices. You can buy these in bulk (for instance at Asian or Turkish shops, a (farmers’) market or online) and mix them together beforehand, or add them seperately to each dish.
You can still add salt to your dish to enhance the flavour, but it will probably be a lot less than what you would get in prepackaged spice mixes. I recommend using either seasalt (with added iodine) or pink Himalayan salt. These contain more minerals then regular table salt.
Tip: look at the ingredient list of seasonings that you enjoy. This gives you an idea of combinations that work well together, which you can then use to make your own seasoning. Alternatively, you can find many recipes online.
If you’d like me to share my favourite combinations/recipes, comment below!
Buy in bulk
Another advantage of cooking at home regularly, is that you can buy in bulk more easily, which can save you a lot of money and trips to the grocery store. Like I mentioned, you can easily buy dried herbs and spices and store them for a long time. For other ingredients, buying in bulk pays off, too. As long as you actually consume everything, of course.
Whereas you can stock up on dried foods such as pasta, rice and oatmeal, which you can store for a long time, you need to be more careful with buying large quantities of fresh fruits, vegetables and meat. This requires some meal planning (not necessarily prepping) on your part, so that you have an idea of how much food you consume in a given week, for instance.
Meats and fish
When it comes to meat and fish, a great option is to buy them frozen, or buy in bulk, portion them out and then freeze them immediately. For instance, I precut chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces, divide them into one or two-person portions and then freeze them. This is super convenient, since I can simply take out individual portions out of the freezer and cook them with some veggies and carbs for a quick weeknight dinner. you can preserve frozen meats and fish for several months.
As for vegetables, I usually choose a variety of (preferably local and seasonal) ones that I like in different colours. You can cut these up yourself and combine them to make a delicious stir-fry, pasta dish, side of grilled, mixed veggies, you name it.
Try to eat vegetables that spoil easily, like leafy greans, a little earlier in the week, as opposed to vegetables that tend to last longer. Another great option is to buy frozen vegetables (which are just as healthy), so that you can eat fresh produce in the beginning of the week and frozen ones at the end. Or, you could shop for vegetables twice a week to prevent spoilage and food waste.
You can keep flavourful vegetables, such as onions and garlic, for a few weeks in a cool and dry place and use them anytime you want to enhance the flavour of your dish and provide extra nutrients. Some vegetables you can cut up and freeze for several months if you aren’t able to consume them before spoilage. Freeze your vegetables as soon as possible when you know you will not be eating them, and don’t wait until they are already starting to spoil.
Nowadays, many precut vegetable mixes are sold in supermarkets. While convenient, I recommend you use these only occasionally, since on top of costing more (for essentially the same product), nutritional values may decrease quicker for precut vegetables, and they are usually packaged in plastic.
However, sometimes you just cannot get around it. And adding a precut veggie mix to your dish is definitely better than eating no vegetables at all and it does prevent food waste if you know you won’t be able to eat the rest of the food, which is very important.
Bonus tip: don’t be afraid of buying fruits and vegetables that look a little less pretty. These are usually less popular because of their size or appearance, but their quality is just as good (sometimes even better). You can buy less perfect-looking foods in more and more supermarkets or find them elsewhere (online, at farmers’ markets). I love this video by The Financial Diet for suggestions: See TFD’s video on groceries
If you struggle with planning meals ahead of time, I’ll share with you my own strategy on how to do this soon.
Batch cook for leftovers (or meal prep)
Now that you’ve bought a bunch of vegetables, herbs, and other ingredients for some of your favourite dishes, you could mix them up in different ways each time to create many seperate dishes throughout the week.
Cook a large batch of your favourite dish, which can be very convenient too. You can eat one portion when freshly made, preserve some for later in the week and freeze the rest portioned out for the next few weeks.
This way, you don’t have to cook every single day (because let’s face it, we’re all busy sometimes and even if you like to cook, sometimes you’re just not feeling it). Some dishes I find very suitable to cook in large batches and refrigerate or freeze for later are pasta sauces, rice dishes (nasi), chilis and soups.
If you’re already comfortable with meal planning, you could also try out meal prep. This means you execute certain stages of the cooking process beforehand, like chopping and cooking certain ingredients, or preparing the entire meal. This saves you time on the day itself, but might mean you’re eating something very similar a few days in a row.
Find out something that works for you, whether that is prepping your entire week of food (breakfast, lunch and dinner), a few meals a week, simply preparing the base of the dish which you can later customize with different ingredients or cook dishes you were going to make anyways in a larger batch.
Batch cooking allows you to buy in bulk, saving you money, and provides a delicious and nutritious alternative to ordering in when you’re feeling lazy, saving you even more money. Because who really needs an overpriced pizza when you have a yummy leftover bolognese sauce in the freezer. Cook some pasta with it, add some shredded cheese and voilà, you’ve got yourself the ultimate comfort dish in way less time than it takes your food to be ordered, prepared and delivered!
Don’t go grocery shopping without a list! A well established grocery list helps you make healthy choices in the supermarket (since you’ve essentially already made the choice) and gives you some guidance.
A grocery list is key, especially when you’re cooking at home so that you can create your favourite dishes just the way you like them. Carefully thinking about your list also helps you prevent food waste, since you take into account the batch cooking you’ve already done.
If you have trouble establishing your grocery list, especially if you’re doing groceries only once a week, check out this post.
Hopefully these tips inspire you, and eating healthy on a budget seems a little more feasible now.
What strategies do you like to use to stay on track with your food? Let me know!
Disclaimer: I am not a certified trainer or doctor. Before making drastic changes to your exercise routine, you should consult with a professional. See full disclaimer at my About page.
Like I explained in my last post, it doesn’t seem like I’ll be going back to the gym anytime soon. Instead, despite having been lacking motivation for working out at home, I’ve decided to start building a consistent fitness routine again.
That’s why I’ve decided to add some new pieces of equipment to my home workout collection. Now, you absolutely do not need any equipment to get in a good workout, however, some basic equipment can be very useful to make certain exercises either a little easier or more challenging.
In order to provide you with some inspiration, I thought I’d share my recent purchases as well as some older equipment I bought in the past. With these pieces of equipment you’ll be able to get in a great workout without needing a ton of space to store them.
I’m first showing you the three pieces of equipment I would strongly recommend you get to start building a basic home workout collection on. Then, I’ll show you a few pieces that are not necessary by any means, but that I personally like to use.
A pair of adjustable dumbells
When you can’t get to a gym, the easiest thing you could get to mimick the workout you’re used to is a pair of adjustable dumbbells. They’re very versatile and really don’t take up a lot of space.
We’ve had these for a while (my boyfriend got them even before we met) but you can find them online easily via Amazon (or bol.com for my Dutch readers). These should be around 15 kg total (33 lbs), but you can get them up to over 30 kg.
You can perform many compound and isolation exercises with these (or at least modifications), depending on the weight you put onto the dumbbell. I like to perform shoulder exercises and rows with them, for example.
I even use them for Romanian deadlifts and other leg movements occasionally, even though the weight is not very heavy. I try to get around this by doing single leg exercises or adding resistance bands.
Sometimes I simply use the entire box where the weights are stored in so I don’t have to bother putting together the dumbells themselves!
Long resistance bands with attachments
The next must have for your home equipment collection everyone talks about, is a set of resistance bands. They’re usually very inexpensive and easy to get on Amazon or bol.com, and you can perform a range of exercises with them.
I only got this set last week, and I’ve tried them out a few times so far. One big advantage is that you can increase the resistance to up to 50 kg by combining the bands. They individually provide between 7 kg and 15 kg resistance each.
By using the attachments (handles, ankle attachments, door attachment) you can do almost any exercise you would normally use a cable for. However, the main difference is that the resistance curve is quite different: the movement is much lighter in the beginning of the movement and gets heavy only when the band gets stretched out (instead of having the same amount of resistance throughout the entire movement).
Additionally, I use bands to increase resistance on my squats (they decently mimick the feeling of a front squat) or my (Romanian) deadlifts (by attaching them to my box of weights).
Mini resistance bands
This set of smaller resistance bands (mini bands) is the only piece in this list that I already used to take to the gym in order to increase resistance on my glutes. I bought mine online a few years back.
They are perfect for increasing the resistance on your gluteus medius (side/ upper part of your butt) on hip thrusts, squats or any other movement. Alternatively, you could just use them to mimick a hip abduction machine (although, again, with a slightly different resistance curve).
On top of that, I occasionally use the lighter bands to train my rear delts (back of the shoulder) by pulling apart the sides of the band.
So, I definitely wouldn’t call this ab trainer a must have for home training. You can train your abs perfectly fine with just a fitness mat (or a floor) and a variety of great exercises.
However, I decided to buy this ab wheel, along with the long resistance bands, because I had already started using it in my gym and I was just starting to get better at it, which I enjoyed. So I knew I would actually use it regularly at home, too.
I like that it trains both the upper and lower abdominal muscles, where many exercises target only one of those. It is also a pretty heavy exercise, which means I don’t need to do a ton of reps and sets to get some results. I’m now at 3 sets of 8 reps at the end of my training (on a good day, that is).
This exercise isn’t for everyone though. Because it is quite heavy, it can put a lot of stress on your lower back if you’re not careful. I personally struggle with lower back pain, and stronger abdominal muscles (and glutes) help relieve it (because it prevents anterior pelvic tilt aka arching of your lower back), which is why I’ve started doing more ab training the past year.
You should only use it if you’ve already built your ab strength enough to not arch your lower back (I practised regular planks for months before I even tried this) and only slightly increase the range of your movement everytime as you get stronger.
If you feel any lower back pain, stopimmediately and perform a shorter range of motion next time. Ideally, you would consult a doctor/physiotherapist or certified trainer if you’re not sure this exercise is safe for you.
A few years back I got this (super cheap) jumping rope at a local fitness store, thinking it would come in handy.
Then, it got stored in a closet to never be used again…
Until quarantine hit. Well, technically a while later, as I mentioned last week. Now that I’m building a consistent fitness routine again, I’ve been using the jumping rope for a few minutes to get warmed up before every workout.
I imagine it is also a great way to break up your desk work every hour if you work from home. I just might start integrating it into my day (and of course let you know the results!)
Lastly, I wanted to mention my foam roller. I must say that I haven’t been using it much since I started doing yoga (almost) every day, but back when I was strength training 4-6 days a week in the gym I used it quite a lot.
Since I do a lot of training on my legs and glutes, after a while my glutes start to cramp almost non stop. I started using a foam roller, mostly on my glutes and back, which helped a lot with my back pain that I mentioned as well as with my cramped glutes.
However, relief is only temporary, so a foam roller session is best done before a workout to increase range if motion if that’s something you struggle with, or after a workout combined with some stretching.
I hope these suggestions will be of use to you. In the coming weeks I’ll share a bit more about how exactly I train and what exercises I recommended.
What pieces of home without equipment do you swear by? And do you have any other equipment you are planning on trying out?
With a new wave of COVID infections hitting the Netherlands, any kind of normal life seems miles away again. OK, the working from home part definitely doesn’t bother me much and I’m fortunate enough to be able to see family and friends from time to time at a safe physical distance. But what I really do miss is my pre-COVID fitness routine in the gym.
I want to share my experience with you, hoping to inspire you and show you that you don’t always have to be on top of your game in order to be fit. It’s okay to struggle and to lose motivation from time to time – completely normal even.
Fitness has been my mental outlet for a long time, so when gyms reopened in July I tried going back for a few weeks just to see what the situation was like. Only to quit immediately after…
I found that the need for making a reservation for my training, as well as part of people not really making an effort to keep their distance or properly clean materials, just made me more anxious.
Sharing a relatively closed space with a bunch of sweaty people who may or may not comply with COVID-measures (inside or outside of the gym), no thanks.
That’s why I quit my membership around and made the resolution to go back if towards the end of the year infections had not increased drastically. Fast forward to October 2020: infection numbers have been increasing and measures are becoming stricter again. So it seems like I won’t be going back to my precious (heavy) resistance training lifestyle just yet.
That doesn’t mean I’ve been doing nothing over the past few months, but it has been a struggle. Apart from the need to destress, I work out because I enjoy it. As for home workouts, not so much. It was very hard for me to stay (or even get) motivated and most of the time I only worked out sporadically. I’m sure many of you are in the same situation.
That is why I’ll take this chance and look back on how my fitness routine changed since COVID came to Europe and what ‘being fit’ even means to me anymore at this point.
A break from strength training
To be completely honest, being forced out of the gym was probably a good thing for me at first. 2019 had been a pretty intense year for me, with a lot going on in my personal life.
My body had not really been able to keep up with the extra stress, which led to light overtraining. I did take it a lot easier that year and around January I really started to feel ready to start my full strength routine again.
Then, the Coronavirus suddenly started spreading in Europe and more and more places were closed. Going to the gym was not an option anymore, and although I could’ve turned to doing home workouts immediately, I chose not to.
Even though I had felt ready to go back to the gym full beast-mode, maybe this was more mental then physical. In a way, lifting weights has been linked to (part of) my identity for a long time, and going back felt like the obvious thing to do.
But maybe a true break was actually exactly what I needed: to give my body complete permission to finally fully rest and recover. So, I decided to quit working out altogether for about a month. I did continue my routine of doing a few minutes of yoga in the morning, which I’d started about a year earlier, and I went on walks. The purpose, however, was not necessarily to “stay in shape”, but mostly to relax.
Relaxing forms of exercise
Not working out for an entire month, did wonders for me. With the extra stress that COVID generously provided, I had to be quite careful with the amount of pressure I put onto my body. After a few weeks, though, I knew that I could handle a bit more. On top on that, the weather started clearing up and it was very enjoyable for me to go outside.
So I started taking long walks, at least once and sometimes twice a day. The type of exercise I did was still mainly focused on enjoyment and relaxation, but I made an effort to become more active again.
I kept doing my morning yoga first thing every day, and I started doing some home workout challenges, which I stuck with for a while but lost motivation for not long after.
I usually did some more yoga in the afternoon. So my exercise routine would look something like this:
Wake up and do some light yoga
Do a short home workout around 11 AM
Go for a walk after lunch
Do (some more intense) yoga in the afternoon, around 16 PM
Go for a walk after dinner
This routine worked very welll for a while. I maintained most of my strength and muscle by doing the home workouts and the afternoon yoga sessions, stayed active and did not overburden myself. It also helped me manage my weight, since I tend to stress eat.
Staying as active as possible made me deal with the stress in a different way, while at the same time burning some of the calories and allowing me less time to eat since I was busy moving my body.
Cardio & Flexibility training
I have to admit I could not stay motivated for home workouts for long. When going to the gym, on days that I didn’t feel motivated I would just tell myself to at least go there and if I still didn’t want to work out, I could leave.
And usually, already having taken the trouble to go to the gym, I would finish my workout and enjoy it, too. Obviously, this strategy didn’t really work as well anymore since working out from home. On top of that, I didn’t really enjoy home workouts (being used to more powerlifting inspired workouts with very heavy weights).
Instead, I thought it best to start focusing on what I enjoyed doing and what made me feel good, while trying to improve on skills that would benefit my strength training in the future, such as flexibility.
I knew I had to stay active, but it had to be enjoyable too. Apart from yoga and walking I did some cardio very sporadically in the form of cycling and roller skating, which I enjoyed especially with good weather. But afraid of losing a lot of muscle I didn’t want to burn too many calories either.
Back to strength training
Like I said, when gyms reopened I was excited to get back to my strength training routine.
However, I couldn’t really find my groove as I was mostly feeling anxious, popular equipment was frequently in use and on top of that, time was limited because I could only reserve an hour-long training window (and wanted to be out of the gym as quick as possible anyway).
So, instead I decided to quit my membership and instead invest in some more home equipment (resistance bands) and some outside bootcamps my friend had started organising, as well as taking Corona proof dance classes.
All in all, I’ve not been training very consistently for the better part of the year.
Still, I tried to:
(1) stay active,
(2) find something I enjoy,
(3) work on (neglected) skills that may be useful later, and
(4) listen to my body.
And I recommend this for you, too!
If you’re stuck or unmotivated with regard to your (home) workouts, don’t be too hard on yourself. It may take a while to figure out what works for you, and it’s okay to even take a complete break from training if that’s what you need.
What have been your main challenges in staying active during the pandemic? Comment below!
After one last heatwave in september, temperatures have dropped significantly in my area (the Netherlands) and suddenly, it definitely feels like autumn. It has seemed to be raining almost non-stop and it is more tempting than ever to just stay home all day – completely in line with COVID-19 measures, of course!
Even so, I do need to force myself out of the house from time to time in order to get some sunlight, which I explained in one of my last posts. As a summer person at heart, I really do start to feel a little sad when the days get darker, shorter and colder. Over the years, however, I have started appreciating the cosy feeling that fall can bring a little more.
One thing that makes autumn a lot more fun for me is… FOOD. In order to feel my best mentally and physically, I try to find a balance between seasonal, nutritional ingredients and satisfying, warming flavours. I choose my ingredients based on macronutrients (protein, complex carbohydrates and – mostly unsaturated – fats), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), other beneficial properties (such as anti-inflammatory or fibre-rich foods and herbs) and, of course, flavour.
Not only does aiming for a healthy balance fuel your body without energy spikes and drops, and keep your organs healthy, it also makes your food taste great. Because of the great variety of fresh, whole foods that you are using combined with different herbs and spices (which themselves each contain their own specific benefits) you can enjoy complex and authentic (as opposed to chemically produced) flavours.
Below I’ll share with you some of my fall favourites that nourish both body and soul this time of year. Be sure to try them out and share your thoughts!
Spiced apple & raisin oats
Nothing beats a warm, cosy bowl of oatmeal on a rainy morning, especially if it includes flavours that are so typical for fall. Eat this dish for breakfast or even lunch (which I do, since I fast during the mornings but always want to start my day with something sweet), it should keep you full for quite a while.
1 sweet apple
Handful of raisins
1 tbsp flax seeds
50-100 grams of (rolled or quick) oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp pumpkin spice/cookie spice
1/4 tsp turmeric
Some black pepper and salt
Top with hemp seeds, chia seeds and a handful of crushed walnuts.
Microwave (my go-to) or overnight
Cut the apple in tiny pieces and mix with a handful of raisins, some oats (depending on your hunger levels and/or caloric needs) and a tablespoon of flaxseeds. Add a teaspoon of cinnamon, a teaspoon (or half) of pumpkin or cookie spice, a quarter teaspoon of turmeric, some salt (enhances flavour) and black pepper (helps absorb nutrients from turmeric).
Mix with some milk of choice (I use soy milk, or half soy milk and half water) until the ingredients are at least half covered. If you don’t like your oats super wet, like me, don’t add too much liquid, since the apples will release some extra moisture as well.
Put the bowl in the microwave for 2 minutes (mine is at 900W), mix one more time and top with some hemp seeds, chia seeds and crushed walnuts. Alternatively, mix the ingredients (apart from the toppings) in a bowl or jar, cover and leave in the fridge overnight. Once you’re ready to eat it, top with the seeds and nuts and enjoy! Perfect to take with you to work or school (if you still need to during the pandemic).
This meal should keep you full for at least a few hours, thanks to the fibre in the fruits, oats, seeds and nuts and to the protein and fats in the nuts and seeds. If you still feel hungry – or notice you get hungry very soon after – or if your protein needs are higher due to strength training, consider taking a protein shake on the side. Recently, I’ve been making simple spinach smoothies by blending some raw spinach (which you don’t taste) with some flavoured protein powder and almond milk. This gives you a head start with your veg for the day, too!
I usually don’t feel the need to add any more (natural) sugar, since the apple and raisins already provide some sweetness and I’m trying to train my palate to be satisfied with the natural sweetness in whole foods such as fruits. If you do like it a little sweeter, you could add some honey (add it after heating to preserve nutrients) or any other sweetener of your choice.
Tomato carrot soup (Italian inspired)
One of my other go to dishes in autumn is soup. And I know I’m not alone in this! It’s just so perfect for those cold days where you really don’t feel like spending much time in the kitchen but do want to get in a lot of nutrients.
Also, if some days you just can’t resist snooping through the pantry for snacks during your work-from-home breaks (like I’m definitely guilty of!), this is a great way to balance it out at dinner.
2 cloves of garlic
1 middle sized onion
2-3 tbsp of tomato puree
2 large carrots
2 cans of peeled tomatoes
Bouillon cube (e.g. vegetable, beef or chicken stock/bouillon) or broth
Dried oregano, basil, rosemary and thyme
Ground black pepper and salt to taste
Optional: extra mixed veggies (e.g. Italian veggies)
Optional: extra protein like lentils or meat balls.
Chop the onion and garlic finely and fry at low heat for a few minutes until translucent. Then, add the tomato puree and bake for a few minutes to get rid of its acid taste. In the meantime, chop the carrots and add to the pan.
When the carrots have softened a little, add the peeled tomatoes and bouillon, as well as any other herbs you like. I chose to use Italian-inspired herbs, such as oregano and basil. You can add some pepper and salt to taste (but be careful if your bouillon/broth already contains salt!).
Cook for a few minutes, then take off the heat and blend with a hand blender until a smooth soup. If you’d like to make your soup even more nutritious, you could add some extra mixed veggies (I added in some prechopped mixed Italian vegetables).
To add some protein, I recommend adding some (traditional or vegetarian) meatballs after blending, or some lentils before blending. Add the lentils together with the carrots and make sure they have cooked long enough so that they are soft enough to blend (about 15-20 min, it’s usually on the package).
Great for lunch or dinner (serve with some – preferably wholewheat – bread) or as a starter if you don’t include the extra protein (this may be too filling if you still have a main dish and possibly dessert to go. Be sure to include enough protein in your main dish though).
30 minutes + 2 hours passive time
What is cosier than a warming bowl of tagliatelle bolognese on a cold and rainy day. This recipe is perfect for all of us working from home right now. It takes a bit of time to make this dish, but most of it is passive time. Meaning, once you’ve assembled everything in the pot you can easily go back to work in your home office (or kitchen table) and stir occasionally after every pomodoro. Just make sure you keep the fire very low so that the sauce is simmering only slightly.
2-3 cloves of garlic
1-2 middle sized onions (depending on preference)
2 large carrots
2 stems of celery
70 g tomato puree (about 1/4 cup)
2 cans of peeled tomatoes or 500 g passata di pomodoro (sieved tomatoes)
300-500 g ground beef (substitute with lentils for a vegetarian/vegan version)
250 ml red wine (I used tiny 250 ml bottles that I found at my supermarket)
1 bouillon cube (ususally beef, but vegetable will do too) mixed with 150 ml hot water
Dried oregano and basil
Pepper and salt
Tiny pinch of cinnamon
Some bay leaves
100 ml of milk (or milk alternative)
Pasta (traditionally tagliatelle, but you can use any type that you prefer or have on hand)
Optional: grated (Parmesan) cheese
Optional: fresh basil
Chop the onion, garlic, carrots and celery very finely. Heat some olive oil in a large pot fry the onion and garlic until translucent and add the carrot and celery. Add the tomato puree and bake for a few minutes to get rid of the acid taste.
Add the ground meat and stir well so that it falls apart before adding the wine and let evaporate for a bit. Then, add the bouillon/broth and the peeled tomatoes and season generously with some Italian herbs, I used 1 heaped tablespoon each of dried oregano and basil, but you could use some rosemary or thyme if you like, too. Add a very tiny pinch of cinnamon (weird, but trust me, it makes a difference and works very well if you don’t overdo it!), and some pepper and salt. Again, be careful with the salt if your broth already contains some. Always taste the sauce to check.
Now, add the bay leaves, partially cover the pot and let simmer (at a very low heat) for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. After the first hour, add the milk. This will make the meat even softer. You can get back to your work from home or watch some netflix in the meantime, if you want to.
Cook the pasta in a different pot al dente and drain, while preserving about a glass of cooking liquid. For the best result, add the pasta back to the pot with a bit of the sauce and some cooking liquid. This will help the sauce stick to the pasta. You could skip this step if you want.
Serve the pasta in a (deep) plate with some of the sauce, some grated cheese on top, and some fresh basil for the finishing touch!
I must admit, I improvised a little on the recipe this time. I had most of the ingredients at hand, but I found out last-minute that I did not have any passata or canned tomatoes, but I’m trying not to go to the supermarket or other busy places if I can avoid it at the moment. So I gathered all the tomato puree I could find in the house and diluted it with the bouillon in the recipe. I also didn’t have any tagliatelle, which is traditionally used with this sauce and goes really well with it, but I used some fusilli tricolore that I had on hand. For an extra healthy version, opt for a wholewheat pasta.
If you are concerned about the wine in the sauce, after two hours of simmering, over 95% of the alcohol has evaporated. It really does add to the unique taste of the sauce, but if you prefere not to use any, you can leave it out.
I love to make this sauce in big batches, so that I have leftovers or for when I have guests over. I love that I can start making it in advance and then just let the sauce simmer, so that I have my full attention for when friends or family arrive. And even though it is really not difficult to make (it just takes a while), it never fails to impress!
Note: don’t forget to turn on ventilation. Your kitchen (and possibly the rest of your house) might still smell like food the next morning…
As September is coming to an end, fall is finally upon us. If you’re anything like me, you notice this not just by the changing weather, but also by some inexplicable restlessness inside.
Fall is the season of change, and I for one experienced a sudden need to change things in my life – my wardrobe, my hair, the activities I was doing.
Already under quite a bit of stress about other insecurities in life – aren’t we all at this point? – I felt that the change of the season and my own disquiet just enhanced my feeling of imbalance further.
I ended up feeling anxious most of the time without knowing exactly where it was coming from. Luckily, I found some remedies that helped me calm down a bit.
Especially now, in times of covid (regulations have become stricter again as we speak in my country) it is easy to feel uncertain and a little out of balance. If you could use some more balance in your life right about now and find stability in this season of change, be sure to try out some of the tips below.
Find a daily routine
Are you as surprised as I am at night, when you’ve just finished dinner and it’s already getting dark outside? As the days get shorter, our body signals us to get tired earlier and we may feel like we have fewer hours in our day in order to finish all those tasks we need to get done, making us a little more hasty.
Try and stick to a daily routine, at least in part. You don’t need to give up on fun, spontaneous activities but make sure you are waking up and going to bed around the same day and make an effort to integrate some me-time every day. This will help your mind and body calm down so that you can be truly present in the moment and don’t get overwhelmed.
Some of the ways I do this is by doing 10 minutes of (very light) yoga every morning to check in with my body and how it’s feeling, start working (from home) around the same time every day (even when it’s tempting to procrastinize), and winding down the hour before bed by turning off my screens, taking a shower and read a book.
One thing that can’t be emphasised enough, is getting enough, good quality sleep. As the days get shorter and we don’t see as much daylight, we want to stay in bed for a little longer – at least until the sun is up – and get tired a little earlier in the evening. Having a good night’s rest may help prevent this and gives you the energy to have a fun and productive day.
Unfortunately, quality sleep is something many people have difficulty getting. Maybe they stay up too late or they are simply unable to fall asleep. I get it, for the first twenty years of my life I struggled with sleep issues: i just couldn’t fall asleep at night and I’d wake up in the middle of the night and stay awake for hours (it was so bad that at one point I decided I could do my homework at 4AM, since I was certain I would be awake by then).
Some of the things I recommend, I actually mention in this article already: make sure you have a daily routine, especially in the morning and around bedtime, and try to get up every morning around the same time. This has made a huge difference in curing my own insomnia. Getting enough daylight throughout the day, and taking the time to really wind down before bed (possibly with some aromatherapy, too), can also do wonders.
Something that has helped me quiet down a lot in times of stress, uncertainty and change, is the use of aromatherapy.
Specifically scents like lavender, one of my favourites, are known to have a very calming effect. I also love warming, spicy scents (for instance blends that include cinnamon, vanilla and certain spices) this time of year. Calming scents are fantastic for better sleep, too.
I have been using an old fashioned aroma diffuser with a candle and some essential oils. I am looking to buy an electric one soon though, since especially at night I don’t feel too safe having a burning candle next to my bed as I fall asleep. Let me know in the comments if you have any recommendations!
Meditate (or go for a relaxing walk)
Meditation has become increasingly popular, and for good reason. Once you get the hang of it, it can truly increase the quality of your day.
According to some, meditation is actually the one thing that actually gives you back more time than you spent. This is not only because people who regularly meditate live longer on average, but also because meditation makes you more productive, in turn leaving you with extra time to spend on other things!
If you’re still not convinced, just going for a relaxing walk, preferably in nature, can do the trick, too. Try to focus on the beautiful outside and on your breathing for a while, instead of on your day to day worries and to do list.
Lastly, with changing seasons comes changing food. There’s a reason traditional autumn flavours are so comforting, they’re just precisely what our body needs.
Some of my favourites include apples, pears, raisins and walnuts (all great to add to you oatmeal), mushrooms and, of course, pumpkins. Eating seasonally ensures you take in as many nutrients as possible, since produce is at its strongest and nutritional value is lost the longer it is stored, too.
I love making quick soups and stir fries with fresh ingredients, for instance. I’ll share some of my favourite fall recipes very soon.
These are some of my tips to start of the new season as best as possible. Which of these are already part of your lifestyle, or are you going to try out? Any other things that have helped you? Let me know in the comments!