Friday, 24 August 2012

Peanut Balls

We all need a bit of a sweet treat from time to time and whilst I wouldn't recommend eating these every day if you are on a low carb weight reduction plan, these snacks do hit that sweet spot without all the nasty saturated fats you would find in a chocolate bar.

I found this recipe on a fitness site and have modified it slightly to make the recipe a little healthier and they taste absolutely stunning. Try eating just 1 ball as a snack or even 2 for breakfast or as a recovery aid as an occasional treat. Each ball contains;

- 150 calories
- 10g fat of which, most is good oily nut fats
- 17g carbs
- 8g protein


185g All natural unsweetened Peanut Butter
1 x 25g Scoop of Chocolate Whey Protein (I personally use Diet Impact Whey (Low Carb) from
60g Agave Nectar
115g raw rolled oats


1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl
2. Shape into 10 balls - you can make more or less but by splitting the mix 10 ways you hit the nutritional stats per ball above
3. Store in a refrigerator for a few hours to allow the balls to set

I suspect these will keep for quite a few days given that there is nothing in the ingredients likely to spoil but I tend to eat two of these myself and the rest of the family finishes them off as a healthy treat.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Mexican Chicken & Black Bean Stew

A combination of classic Mexican herbs and spices alongside some very healthy fat burning muscle building ingredients.

Ingredients (Serves 4-6)

4-6 Chicken Breasts cubed or around 800g of Chicken Breast Mini Fillets
800g chopped tinned tomatoes
250g dried black beans soaked for 24 hours or around 600g tinned if you can find them
1 Red Pepper Sliced
1 Green Pepper Sliced
1 Onion Sliced
1 Garlic Clove Crushed
2 teaspoons of Hot Chilli powder (use mild if preferred)
1 teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper
1 teaspoon of Onion salt
1 teaspoon of Turmeric
1 teaspoon of Cumin
Salt and Pepper to season
1 tablespoon of Hemp Oil
Chopped Coriander to garnish


1.  If you are using dried beans and assuming you have soaked them for 24 hours, boil them vigorously for 10 minutes and then simmer for 40 minutes. Set to one side.
2. Heat the oil in a pan
3. Gently fry the onions and garlic until translucent.
4. Add all of the spices and gently toast for a further minute - this is really important to unlock the flavour
5. Add the chicken and stir, coating with all the spices and allow to brown for a minute or two
6. Add the tomatoes, peppers, black beans and seasoning to taste.
7. Simmer for around 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through
8. Serve in a bowl garnished with the coriander

Why it's good for you?

  • The lean chicken is an excellent source of muscle building protein
  • The beans are low GI carbs containing virtually no sugar, they're also very filling, negating the need to serve with starchy rice or potatoes.
  • A serving contains around 2-3 of your 5 to 10 vegetables a day
  • The hot chilli powder and cayenne pepper fires up your metabolism making it burn calories quicker.
  • The peppers are rich in anti-oxidants which are thought to help protect you from diseases like Cancer.

Monday, 20 August 2012


A classic vegetarian stew from Provence, lovely served on its own or with grilled lean meats. Frankly I'd struggle to think of anything healthier for you and you can vary the recipe to include your own favourite vegetables.

Ingredients (Serve 4-6)

1 Onion sliced
1 Yellow Bell Pepper cut into slices
2 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 large Courgettes cut into chunks
1 Aubergine cut into chunks
2 cloves of Garlic crushed
1 squeeze of Tomato Puree
2 tablespoons of Red Wine Vinegar
Sprig Thyme
1 tablespoon of Hemp Oil


1. Heat the oil in a large pan, an ideal type of pan to use would be a Le Creuset style pan.
2. Add the onions and garlic and fry gently until translucent - don't allow them to brown
3. Add the courgettes, aubergines and peppers and continue to fry for around 5 minutes until the veg starts to brown and caramelise. Make sure you allow the veg to brown as this adds flavour.
4. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, puree, seasoning  and thyme and simmer for around a further 5 mins
5. Serve

Why it's good for you?

1. A single serving is around 3 of your 5 to 10 a day
2. Very low in saturated fat
3. Low carb.
3. Very low calorie (if you're a counter!) even in a big portion size, yet very filling and no need for starchy carbs.

Friday, 17 August 2012


I'm not a big fan of Pasta as part of a weight control diet, it's carb content is very high and it contains wheat. However no one says you have to eat healthy tomato based sauces only with Pasta, this sauce goes equally well with brown rice. If you can't drag yourself away from Pasta though, go for a whole wheat variety that is full of fibre, contains more minerals and vitamins and where the carbs are more complex than those found in White Pasta.

Ingredients (Serves 4-6)

Small handful of Capers
1 Tin Chopped Tomatoes
500ml Passata
1 good squeeze of Tomato Puree
4 Anchovies Chopped
2 Garlic Cloves Chopped
1 Brown Onion Chopped
Handful of Stuffed Pimento or Black Olives
600g of tinned Tuna in Spring Water
1 teaspoon of Crushed Dried Chillis
Pinch Rock Salt
Pinch Ground Black Pepper
Fresh parsley and Grated Parmesan to serve
2 teaspoons of dried Italian Seasoning
1 tablespoon Hemp Oil


1.  Gently fry the onions, garlic and chilli flakes in the Hemp Oil
2. When the onions are translucent (don't let them brown) add the anchovies to the pan and fry for 1 more minute
3. Add the tomatoes, passata, puree, capers, olives and tuna to the pan.
4. Now add the salt, pepper and Italian seasoning.
5. Simmer for 15 minutes to allow the flavours to enrich, add a little water if the sauce looks too dry.
6. Serve with parmesan, parsley and coarsely ground black pepper.

Why it's good for you?

Tomato based sauces are much healthier than saturated fat filled creamy ones and are an excellent way to contribute towards your 10 fruit and veg a day. 

The tuna and anchovies are great sources of good fats which reduce your risk of heart disease and are also a great source of Vitamin A & D.

The hot chilli fires up your metabolism causing it to burn calories quicker than it otherwise might.

For the calorie counters amongst you, a serving (1/6th of the recipe) of this sauce contains around 250 calories.

Enjoy and let me know what you think?

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Coconuts and the Fructose Myth

I don’t seem to be able to escape Coconuts at the moment, fortunately it’s not the hard shelled variety being lobbed at me but rather the pre-packaged water contained within them being sold as the latest sports energy drink.

I’m being bombarded by sport stars on twitter telling me how cool it is, I’ve even had manufacturers of it follow me on twitter and my local Tesco has started to sell it.

The claims are fairly straight forward;

·      Packed with potassium and electrolytes
·      Low acidity
·      Fat free

All good so far? Ready to grab a few bottles for the kids packed lunch or for after your 30 minute gym session? Well all is not quite what it seems I’m afraid;

The key benefits of potassium and electrolytes relate to a high level of dehydration and cramping – typically the type you would experience after having exercised for a couple of hours (i.e. in a competitive sporting environment as an elite athlete)

Don’t believe me? Have a look at

Rehydration for lesser periods is adequately served by water – and guess what; that is also low acidity, fat free and generally speaking cost free!

So unless you are an elite athlete, you may be thinking that as a lifestyle choice Coconut Water seems pretty cool and the only harm it’s going to do is in your pocket. Well in principle that’s not far from wrong, except that having examined one particular brand, I found that every 100ml contains 5g of sugar (the equivalent of a teaspoon of sugar or 3 teaspoonful’s in every 300ml serving).

Admittedly , and I am making the assumption that the sugar is natural rather than added for taste, its likely to be in the form of fructose, which as far as sugars go is the best one for you. But too much fructose is still bad for you too;

Fructose, unlike other carbohydrates is processed in the liver - When we eat too much of it, the liver can't process it all fast enough for the body to use as sugar, particularly if our periods of exercise are modest (30-60 minutes). Instead, it starts making fats from the fructose and sending them off into the bloodstream and I am sure I don’t have to tell anyone why too much fat is a bad thing!

So how much Fructose is bad for you?

If you have been following my foodstrategy then you will know that I follow a ten pieces of fruit and veg a day rule, of which 2 are fruit. This typically gives me around 20grams of Carbs a day from fruit of which around 10 grams is Fructose.

When you compare Coconut water with this – it actually fairs not too badly as that’s probably roughly the same amount of fructose found in a very small 200ml serving – however do you really want to limit your rehydration to one small serving and have to avoid fresh fruit for the rest of the day?

It could be worse though, the greatest myth of all is fruit juice!

We have been programmed to think of fruit juice as being good for us – every bottle tells us how a single large 300ml serving can be as much of our 4 of our 5 a day (4 of my 10 in my case!). The problem with fruit juice is that it is highly condensed, i.e. quite a few pieces of fruit go into producing a relatively small amount of it.

That single 300ml serving for example contains the equivalent sugar of four apples (around 40g or 8 teaspoonful’s of sugar) – drink two glasses a day and your up to 80g of sugar before you have even touched a piece of fresh fruit.

Remember those packed lunch boxes, Mum’s & Dad’s? It’s taken some doing in our household but I am pleased to say I have converted my kids to taking a bottle of water to school with them rather than the traditional fruit juice carton. It wasn’t easy and took a bit of patience but water is now pretty much the only thing my kids drink (with the odd treat exception)

Just like my kids I won’t be grabbing for the Fruit Juice or Coconut Water (I didn’t even mention how bad it tastes or that it is a diuretic and too much of it will give you the trots!) any time soon – not whilst I have access to the ‘Elixir of Heaven’ that is simple old fashioned, Water!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Olympic Legacy

I have to confess to being a little bleary-eyed this morning having stayed up far too late yesterday evening watching the closing ceremony of the London 2012 games.

I also feel slightly grumpy that the games have ended - how will I now fill my two hours of daily evening viewing with something equally inspiring? Furthermore the prospect of my fellow GBians returning back to our ‘modus operandi’ of whinging, moaning and generally being rude to overseas tourists and immigrants is a far less inspiring image.

Interestingly, I looked up the official meaning of ‘modus operandi’  and this brings me to today’s point. According to Wikipedia it roughly translates to ‘method of destruction’ – how apt!

My concern isn’t whether the next taxi I get into in London, finds me greeted by either Mr Happy Driver or Mr Grumpy. I’m worried about the ‘Olympic legacy’

It’s impossible to escape the words Olympic Legacy at the moment as we look to justify the seemingly expensive last two weeks that have flown by incredibly quickly after so many years in the planning.

We seem to be focused on measuring the success of the Olympic legacy by how well we perform in Rio in 2016, assuming a nation of inspired youngsters will drive for more medals than we have achieved on home soil – I’m all for this by the way but this isn’t the real Olympic legacy.

According to a 2011 survey by Gallup, obesity and chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes costs British business £20bn a year in lost productivity.

The impact of these conditions is not restricted to the private sector, according to David Cameron, obesity costs the NHS a staggering £5 billion a year and that figure is set to rise to £6 billion by 2015.

A bit more digging and I found a report from the NHS forecasting that by 2030 they expect 50% of the UK population to be classed as obese and by 2050 our annual NHS bill for dealing with obesity will have risen from a now modest £5 billion to an eye-watering £45 billion a year.

The real legacy of these games therefore has to be to reverse or at least slow down of our alarming full-throttle drive towards oblivion. We all need to be inspired to get up of the sofa, not because we believe we are the next Helen Glover lying in wait to storm to an unprecedented gold with less than 4 years experience under our belts, but because it’s good for our well-being both individually and as a nation as a whole.

Remember the more money that gets spent unnecessarily dealing with obesity, the less is available to research and provide cures to less self-inflicted conditions like many forms of cancer.

Official estimates claim that putting on the games has cost this country £9 billion. When you look at it in this light – it’s beginning to look like a bargain!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Eat this not that! Grrrrrrrrr!

I'm irritated!

I appreciate that gentleman's health magazines are not just for those of us looking to lose a few pounds and that editorially the journalist needs to cover all bases but what I've seen today should have been the tag line for a McDonalds marketing campaign rather than guidance within such a magazine.

The 'eat this not that' approach is a well trodden path for your average health magazine food section and whilst I will always have a certain amount of contempt for debates about whether a pre-packaged M&S Caesar's Salad is better for you or not, than the equivalent from Waitrose, I have admittedly lost the odd 30 seconds to examine such a debate.

Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not suggesting I'm above ever buying such an item, just that typically when I have, it's most likely to have been because I was on the road somewhere, had planned badly in terms of bringing food and hence am scanning the nutrition labels of such items in whatever food establishment that the rest of my travel compatriots have chosen to fill there faces.

I have certainly never found myself in such a scenario debating whether to go into Waitrose or to try and locate the nearest M&S because the Caesar has 1 less gram of saturated fat!

I do a lot of travelling, mostly driving my son and his team mates around the country for rugby matches. In general my preparation is pretty good and despite others in the car tucking into the finest road side delicacies at regular intervals I do, motivated by wanting to know exactly what I am eating rather than risking the unknown, tend to prepack an ice bag.

Anyway, I'm drifiting slightly, back to my irritation.....

I can live with the odd Caesar comparison despite my mild contempt but today such an article has made my blood boil.

Come on guys! Get serious!

As you can see from the above, the said article recommends a whole book of such comparisons and gives an example that you should eat a McDonalds Big Mac rather than a Whopper with cheese from Burger King. Sound nutritional advice no doubt, if stranded on a desert island with the only food source being these two restaurants (not that unlikely given their world domination!). However I struggle to understand how a 'health' magazine can justify such advice in any scenario.

Ponder if you will, despite it's new found position as a Superfood, that a Big Mac from Mcdonalds contains the following nutrition:

  • 24g of fat of which 10g is saturated!
  • 490kcal calories
  • 41g of Carbohydrate of which 8g are sugars
  • The wheat flour in the bun has added to it; Extra gluten, sugar, emulsifiers and preservatives
  • The cheese is only 51% cheese! How scary is that? 
  • The sauce contains high GI high fructose corn syrup, fatty vegetable oil and more preservatives

Bearing in mind that typically this then gets consumed along with a portion of medium fries and a thick shake and you've added a further; 720 Kcal, 24g of fat (7g saturated) and an absolutely staggering 53g of sugar!!! (That's a total of eleven teaspoons of sugar!).

For the calorie counters amongst you that's a total of around 1200kcal or 60% GDA for a female in one meal (remember I think you should eat five times a day!). I won't even bother calculating what percentage it is of your GDA for fat and sugar as it is blowing away a few days worth of allowance in the sugar alone!

I think what tickles me most about this is the catch line on the article; 'the book that makes fat loss easy'! That's probably true if you apply the principle to never eat a single thing within in!

I think the only correct thing about this advert, is the statement; 'Thousands of surprising food swaps' which hits the nail on the head for me. I'm surprised, very surprised!

So come on guys! Let's get serious about this kind of article - it has no place in a health magazine. If you want to compare burgers then why not compare such abominations with a homemade lean beef burger, served without a bun or fries!

Am I being too hard on these guys and our American restaurant friends? Let me know what you think?

Bresaola - Italian for 'Good for You!'

A 1980's misconception aside, that we should all eat enough pasta to energise us to run 4 marathons a day, not much else other than Olive Oil has emerged from our euro-cousins to lead us to believe that Italy has much to offer the world of clean eating.

Tasty old shoe leather

Ok, that may be a little harsh and despite inventing the great evil pizza (I love it but it's so bad for you!) they have never been quite as high up in the geographical table of coronary disease as our deep fried Mars bar eating neighbours north of the border and in truth the UK as a whole.

Still, I didn't expect to find my latest 'superfood' alongside the fat laden salamis and mortadellas in the Italian section of the delicatessen.

Bresaola, or Italian Air Dried Beef, despite looking like old shoe leather, is my latest healthy discovery. Real Italian Bresaola, air cured in the alpine valleys of Valtellina (available in Tesco, look for the Valtellina quality mark) is probably the European equivalent of Beef Jerky or Billtong, but just like the social comparisons between Italy and the USA/South Africa it's altogether less harsh and much more delicate both on the teeth and the tongue! (The social comparison ended before I got to the teeth and the tongue bit - I've never eaten a South African, American or an Italian for that matter!)

It has a similar taste to and is served in the same way (wafer thin slices) as Parma Ham (only more Beefy, doh!) but unlike Parma Ham it is utterly lean.

I've found it is best served with a salad of red onions, baby leafs and capers and loads of lemon juice and ground pepper which is the way the Italians would prefer you to serve it. It's equally nice with a little Balsamic vinegar.

Nutritionally 100g of the stuff (not that you would ever eat that much in one sitting given it's wafer thinness) provides the following:

  • Protein 33g
  • Carbs 2g
  • Fat 2.9g of which only 1.3g is saturated
  • Sodium 1.5g
  • 160 Kcal

So if you bored with eating chicken every day and fancy something a little more sophisticated give it a try.

Look for the Valtellina P.G.I. Stamp to be sure its proper Bresaola

Friday, 10 August 2012

Homemade Kofte Recipe

I am feeling inspired today by the bright sunshine and my arabic roots, hence I thought I'd make a few healthy clean Kofte to throw on the BBQ tonight.

My recommendation would be to serve these with salad, low fat greek yoghurt, hot pepper sauce (or Harissa) and loads of lemon juice. If you are allowing yourself a little wheat then you can also serve in wholemeal pittas or Khoubez (Lebanese flat bread), however these are also brilliant as Indian style kebabs served with a bean curry.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

800 grams of lean (less than 5% fat) Minced Beef (Lamb is better but I've struggled to find it minced lean enough)
1/2 grated brown onion
2 heaped teaspoons of Cumin
1 teaspoon of chilli powder
1 teaspoon of dried or fresh Coriander leaf
1 teaspoon of dried Greek (normal will do) Oregano
1 teaspoon of rock salt
Handful of chopped fresh mint







Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, work in well with your hands. Don't add an egg to bind, you don't need it and it makes the meat tastes rubbery (Something I learnt from Heston Bluementhal!). The salt is an adequate binding agent.

Shape the meat mix into sausage shapes and rest in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Grill in the oven or better still get that chargrilled effect on the BBQ - try not to overcook them though as the lean meat dries up quickly.

What's good about it?

Lean appetite suppressing, muscle repairing Protein!

Come in, wipe your feet and take a seat

So here goes, the official launch of my clean living and eating blog. If you take the time to read some of the background pages you'll see it's not without a certain amount of trepidation as to whether or not this actually serves any useful purpose to anyone at all - but thinking positively let's hope it does!

I'm intending to provide reasonably regular updates covering a range of topics that interest me from new recipes I've tried or others have passed onto me, new ideas about fitness and my experiences to just general observations to provoke a debate (currently pondering for example the wonders of  flat trainers v gel based ones, how effective is creatine, who's stolen the gym's skipping rope! and whether I can turn my idea for a rugby fit training programme I have cheesily named Aer-Rugbics into the next big fitness revolution - more on these later no doubt!)

I hope you like what you read and it serves as a pleasant distraction from whatever else occupies you, please do leave any comments about my posts (positive and/or negative) or recipes (send me your recipes too for inclusion)

Enjoy and don't take life too seriously!