Health Benefits of Winter Greens

Someone once said that you should always have something green on your plate, and from a nutritional perspective, there is good reason to. Winter greens provide more than just a pop of colour, they are nutritional powerhouses.

 

The brassica family includes kale, broccoli, cabbage, collard greens and brussel sprouts which have some fantastic benefits that when cooked correctly are delicious and nutritious.

 

Brassicas are especially high in essential vitamins such as potassium, vitamin K and C, folic acid and fibre. Brassicas also contains bio-active sulfur containing compounds called glucosinolates. Through considerable evidence, these may have some cancer preventative properties whilst also limiting the progression of chronic inflammatory diseases such as cardiovascular disease.

 

Winter is the perfect time to add these vegetables into your diet as they are in season, widely available and make a great addition to winter dishes. We use them in our Balance Box fresh food deliveries menus.

 

Instead of simply steaming, get creative in the kitchen and try roasting sprouts with chestnuts and garlic, pan frying cabbage with sliced chilli and flaked almonds or massaging a miso dressing into baby kale leaves. At the Balance Box we love a classic bubble and squeak, try our recipe which elevates winter green vegetables into a delicious and healthy meal.

Go Nutty This Christmas!

Nuts are a very popular and convenient food and they have many health benefits including being a great source of healthy fats. They make a lovely snack on their own or mixed with dried fruit and seeds. They also work well in a smoothie or as a yummy crunchy topping for your morning porridge.

As they are so tasty, versatile and have a high nutritional value, a regular handful as part of your diet may be a good idea.  Nuts are high in calories, and a handful by themselves is fine, that said, they quickly become unhealthy when paired with sugary or salty mixes or you go beyond a handful.

 

Below are a few reasons to go ‘nuts for nuts’ that usually go along with the festive season:

Brazil Nuts

Amazonian people prize them for their nutritional value; high in protein, carbohydrates, and good fats.  Fun fact; They one of the tallest trees in the Amazon and each fruit contains approximately 24 seeds and those are Brazil nuts.

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts are very good for you, they have great sources of vitamins A and B along with dietary fibre.  They also help raise the good cholesterol whilst helping to lower the bad.  So, a handful of Hazelnuts can be guilt-free and do you some good.

Walnuts

Walnuts, the ones that look like brains.  They have a lot of vitamin E and healthy fats.  Some reports claim that they also help with depression as they contain omega 3 oils which are known to raise serotonin levels in the brain.

Walnuts also have a higher level of antioxidants than any other nut which may help with the fight against heart disease, cancer, and premature aging.

 

A healthy food delivery from Balance Box delivered to your door contains our popular ‘Trail Bar’ which contains a lovely mix of fruit and nuts.

Planning a glass of Mulled Wine or Spiced Cider? 

We have done a slight comparison of the two drinks to help you decide.

 

In the spirit of the festive season, one of our favourite things to do is visit the wonderful Christmas markets and have a nice cup of cheer to keep us warm, and our spirits high! Not only are these festive drinks delicious and perfect for a chilly evening, their ingredients can also offer immune boosting properties, so they can help to keep you healthy and happy in the cold winter months.

 

We’ve recreated recipes for a couple of our favourite festive Cheer drinks,  for you to enjoy in the comfort of your home or bring to a Christmas party! These recipes are not 100% guilt-free of course if you add alcohol.  Click here to check them out

 

Wondering which of the two may be your healthier option?

 

We have done a slight comparison of the two drinks to help you decide.

 

While they both contain basically the same spices, our specific recipe for the Spiced Apple Cider contains ginger, which can be a wonderful immune booster as well as help to soothe the stomach.

 

If you’re looking for a treat without the alcohol, the Spiced Apple recipe is just as wonderful without the alcohol.

 

Careful which type of apple juice you use, as apple juice naturally contains an extremely high amount of fructose (natural sugar) and some have added sugar which may be refined sugar.

 

A full glass of red wine on its own may only contain a few grams of sugar, plus added sweetener in mulled wine may take it to about 10 grams for a glass. As far as calorie content for these two drinks, they contain roughly a similar amount of calories depending on the amount of alcohol and sweetener used.

We do celebrate with a couple of glasses of cheer ourselves, but, Alcohol Awareness Week was only last week (11-17 November 2019) and we do support the message “Please drink responsibly”.

 Our winner for health must be the virgin apple cider as it works best if you are avoiding alcohol.

Cross over to the dark (chocolate) side

 

At Balance Box we’ve delved into the wonderful world of chocolate in search of the answer (or justification) to the question: ‘Are there any benefits to eating chocolate?’. We found that it all depends on the approach you take. So, before you squeeze into your running shorts and steam some broccoli, you may find that chocolate can provide you with some essential nutrients.

What is it?

Dark chocolate is made purely of cacao solids, cacao butter and sugar. The minimum amount considered to provide you with the health benefits is 70% cocoa solids. Naturally, the higher the percentage the richer its health credentials but perhaps leave anything > 90% to the connoisseurs. Still, like with anything, there are exceptions. Just like coffee beans, cacao beans come in a variety of flavours.

How can I have chocolate without it having a negative impact on my health (and weight-loss)?

The all the time-tested advice is true – everything is moderation and quantity over quality. Balance is our expertise and chocolate should be no exception in the mix. Pay as much attention to the quality of the cocoa as the percentage of it in a bar. Choose an ethical high cocoa content bar for maximum benefits and try to let it melt in your mouth rather than chewing it – you eat less but feel more satisfied. For bonus points opt for a raw cacao bar to avoid the extraction of nutrients that can result from roasting cacao beans.

Why do Nutrition experts favour dark chocolate?

Chocolate is especially rich in certain vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium and zinc, perhaps a reason that cacao was given as medicine in previous centuries due to common deficiencies in people’s diets. Today we also know that it is the cacao bean that contains an antioxidant known as flavonoids. Flavonoids have been suggested to support heart health, have natural anti-inflammatory properties. It is also rich in polyphenols which may have cancer fighting properties, promote brain health and improve blood sugar levels – some say it’s the golden ticket to a healthier lifestyle.

We advise sticking to a simple winning formula – enjoy on occasion but not at every occasion.  Its benefits are fantastic but it’s not one of your 5-a-day (yet!).

 

Zero-waste journey, but how?

Do any of us know what we’re doing when we start our zero-waste journey?

 

Going shopping? – Don’t go unprepared, a list always helps, best not to go shopping when you’re hungry either, you might buy food and treats your eyes want!

Do you plan your meals every week? – Who does that? Not many, but making a weekly meal plan will help you waste less food, and help your purse strings too.

Reusable bags – Well you could remember to pack them before you go off to shop, but so many times we get caught out when we are just passing the supermarket and decide to do the shop there and then because it works right?. In which case, nothing wrong with using the plastic bags you did buy to carry home your goodies, to line the bins around the house. If you use them to line wastepaper bins you can use them over and over! Or if you are really good, fold up a ‘bag for life’ and leave it in the car or in your bag so it’s always there.

Glass or silicone food storage boxes – Now these really do help the environment because you won’t be using much aluminium foil or cling film. Win win!

Leftovers – You can make some yummy soups with leftover veggies, and super smoothies with leftover fruits. Don’t forget your freezer is your friend and can save you cooking on a day when you just don’t feel like it. Good to know something delicious is sitting in the freezer just waiting for you!

Composting – If you can compost anything you don’t use it will be a great help in the garden, fertilizing everything and helping them grow into fab food or flowers.

Cloths vs Kitchen Towels – How annoying we can’t recycle kitchen towels, the fibres are too short apparently and make for poor quality pulp, sigh, still, you can always switch to cloths instead.

 

At Balance Box, we make sure we use as much recyclable material as possible watch this video to see Jennifer Irvine talk about our responsible packaging.

 

Before you go Jenny Irvine (our founder) has one more useful tip for you “Make sure you recycle your healthy food delivery service Balance Box pots.  If you’re like the Irvine family we reuse them, for anything from shaping veggie burgers to planting herbs!”

There you go, now you can get started on your zero-waste journey too!

8 Healthy-Heart Foods

Did you know over the course of our lifetime we have the same number of heart beats as a chicken? That’s approximately 2 billion beats in a lifetime. You’re probably wondering why we live longer than a chicken? This is because a chicken’s heart rate is about 275 beats per minute and ours is closer to 65 beats per minute.

The foods we eat can have a big impact on the structure and health of our heart. Use these heart healthy foods as a guide to create well-balanced and nutritious meals that could make a big difference in keeping your heart in good shape, whilst also minimising your risk of heart disease.

 

 

  1. Eat fatty fish high in omega-3 like salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, herring and trout
  2. Leafy greens are a great source of vitamin K and are known for their wealth of minerals and antioxidants. So, enjoy plenty of spinach, kale, collard greens and swiss chard in your diet.
  3. Berries such as: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are rich with antioxidants and nutrients that can play an important role in heart health.
  4. Nuts like walnuts and almonds are a great source of fibre and packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals that contribute to a healthy heart.
  5. Barley, brown rice, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, rye and whole wheat are all whole grains that include the germ, endosperm and bran – the nutrient rich parts.
  6. Avocados are rich in monosaturated fats that are linked to lower cholesterol, believed to contribute to a healthy heart.
  7. Chia, flax and hemp seeds provide omega-3 fatty acids, fibre and protein. These may boost our heart health by reducing inflammation, blood pressure and cholesterol.
  8. Autumnal coloured vegetables such as red peppers, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, acorn squash are rich in fibre and antioxidants that may be protective against cardiovascular disease.

Honey is the star of the show!

Try a Honey Face Mask

If you are looking for the perfect at home facial, then look no further. As there are some fantastic natural products that will work wonders for your skin, lying around in your kitchen already.

 

Honey is the star of the show!. It is wonderful for the skin as it contains anti-inflammatory properties, is naturally antibacterial and deeply nourishes the skin by calming and moisturising. Try using a ‘raw’ honey to maximise results.

Honey can be used to wash your face, as part of a scrub or as a luxurious face mask. See below 3 different honey face masks for your skin type.

 

Honey Face Mask for Acne Prone Skin

  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Honey Face Mask for Dry Skin

  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¼ avocado, mashed
  • 1 tablespoon ground almonds

Honey Face Mask for Sensitive Skin

  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon matcha powder (green tea leaves)
  • 1 teaspoon sweet almond or jojoba oil

Once you’ve decided on your preferred mask combine all ingredients together and mix well. Start with clean skin and before applying the mask, lay a warm face cloth on your face to open up those pores. Apply the mask and leave on for 15 minutes. Rinse with warm water to remove the mask and then rinse again with cold water or a toner to close the pores. Now use a good facial oil to lock in all the moisture.

Important – Please be aware that allergic reactions are possible, especially if you already have allergies to bees or pollen. We recommend always doing a patch test first, apply a small amount on your neck and let sit for a few minutes, and then remove to see how your skin will react before going on to the rest of your face.

Managing stress; The balancing act.

It’s no secret that stress has become a common part of life and whilst there is nothing wrong with a bit of stress every so often, a lot of us nowadays struggle from chronic stress due to modern day living. Demanding jobs, lack of sleep, pressure, trying to maintain a social life and being constantly wired to our smart phones are all contributing factors.

In support of Mental Health Awareness week we’ve put together 6 ‘DIY’ tips to hopefully help you manage your stress levels.

Go for a walk or jog.

Fresh air and moving your body can calm and clear your mind in a matter of minutes. When you’re feeling upset or overwhelmed, try going for a brisk walk or jog to your nearest park or even just down a quiet(er) street nearby your work or home.

Take time for your meals.

Too often we eat on the go, in front of screens, in meetings, etc. Having all these distractions whilst we eat prevents us from properly digesting our food and can leave us feeling bloated and sluggish. Now that summer is on the way, why not take your lunch outside and enjoy the fresh air and natural vitamin D!

Single task instead of multi task.

Do you know that only about 2% of the world’s population can effectively multi task? So don’t feel discouraged if you struggle! Whatever you are doing, try and focus on doing just that thing; be it writing a report, replying to an email, cooking or having a conversation. Be present and focus solely on the one thing you are doing at a time. You’ll be far more productive this way.

Plan and Prioritise

Writing a to do list will make you feel more in control and less likely to be stressed the following morning and throughout the day. Prioritise accordingly – it’s usually the things we put off the most that need to be prioritised. Make sure you tick or cross things off your list too, it will increase your feeling of accomplishment and make it feel like there’s less on your plate! 

Sleep

We’d all love to have more hours in the day but trying to solve that problem by cutting down on your sleep is a losing game and you will actually become less productive and feel more stressed. Try to have a good and regular sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.

Communicate your problems.

If something is worrying you or stressing you out, talk about it. Whether it’s to your close friend, family member, work colleague or health professional, expressing your worries and feelings to someone is important. There is no need to carry and deal with the burden all on your own, seek advice and help from people that care about you and if you feel you can’t talk to those close to you, there are amazing charities and organisations out there who can provide support and comfort. Don’t suffer alone, reach out if you are struggling with stress or any other mental health issue.

Tips for Making New Years Resolutions

It’s that time of year again- the end of the year in fact.

During the last few days of December the buzz of Christmas begins to die down and there is a sudden expectation that we start to think about our New Year’s Resolutions.

We like to say that we have a resolution and can’t help but feel a smug sense of accomplishment when we’re congratulated for setting a goal before the process has even begun. Everyone likes to have an aim, something to work towards – and what better time to start than on the 1st of January.

But 365 days is a long time and by March most of us can’t even remember what our resolution was! In fact, only about 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions. Success comes from staying true to what you said you would do days, weeks and months after you said you would do it. And this isn’t easy.

So how can we ensure that we stick to our resolutions (other than by resolving to give up making them all together!)?

Here’s 10 quick tips to bear in mind before 2019 is upon us.

This is your opportunity to let go of the guilt associated with not sticking to previous resolutions and make this year a success.

This is your New Year’s Absolution.

1 Make one resolution – not four!

It’s easy to get carried away and to find yourself with multiple resolutions. This can be overwhelming and will only compromise your ability to remember, commit to and invest time in each of them. So when it comes to setting your goal – choose quality over quantity and think carefully about your priorities. Refining your focus on one aim will increase the likelihood that you’ll reach it. After all – surely it’s better to accomplish one resolution of real value than to partially achieve (and give up on!) a variety of less important ones!

2 Is it realistic (and attainable!)?

Whilst there’s no harm in being ambitious, don’t be unrealistic!

Set a goal that is challenging but achievable given the time and resources that you have available to you. In doing this, you will avoid over-exerting yourself and being disappointed with any progress made that doesn’t meet unrealistic expectations.

3 Make it trackable

Track your progress! This is so important as it allows you to assess how you’re getting on. This doesn’t mean stepping on the scales every day or obsessing over your resolution. You can do this by setting yourself sub-goals which you aim to achieve each week or month.

This will keep you motivated and allow you to amend your method if it’s not working early in the year. A year is a long time so you have time to make sustainable alterations if need be.

4 Be pro-active

How will you go about achieving your New Year’s Resolution? What’s your method?

Write it down and create yourself a plan which will enable you to reach your goal. This may include joining the gym, getting up earlier, investing in a diary- you could even sign up to Balance Box so the food planning is done for you! You can order now by going to www.balancebox.com/

Take the time to sit and think about ways to keep yourself on track and how you will overcome any set-backs. Having a method will provide structure and ensure that you hit the ground running. Be pro-active – set a reminder on your phone, throw something out, check out our Balance Box menus www.balancebox.com/menus-balance-box/ – get the ball rolling and follow a plan to keep it moving!

5 Share it, but make it your own

Talk to your friends and family about your New Year’s Resolution, why it’s important to you and discuss ways in which they can help (or even join in!).

Surrounding yourself with support is essential but don’t forget that this resolution is your own. It’s really important to ensure that you’re confident and determined enough to independently make progress and don’t become reliant upon another person to keep you on track. Everyone has different schedules and motivations so make sure that you know yours and make it work for you.

6 Don’t follow the crowd

Don’t just resolve to lose weight because everyone is.

Think about what needs changing in your life and any bad habits that you have- it really doesn’t matter if they seem odd to other people!

7 Don’t kid yourself!

As tempting as it may be to jump straight into your new resolution, unsustainable and drastic alterations to your lifestyle will only set you up for injury, exhaustion or failure. Don’t aim to run 6 times per week if you’re not a runner or to lose 2 stone if you struggle to lose 2lb – ease yourself into the change. Start small (everyone has to start somewhere!), take your time and be patient – you have a whole year!

8 Be specific

How many times have you heard someone say ‘my New Year’s Resolution is too lose weight’, ‘to be more optimistic’, ‘to see the family more’.

These generalised goals aren’t doing anything to help you make progress. How much weight do you want to lose each month? How are you going to be more optimistic? Don’t scrimp on the detail – speak to one of our nutritional advisors about the best Balance box meal plan for you, decide to go to the gym every Monday, or to meditate on Saturday mornings before taking the kids to football.

Be specific and work it into your routine. If you consider how to achieve your goal in detail you will begin to see just how attainable it is.

9 Remind yourself why you’re doing it

Whilst the concept of New Year’s Resolutions is often mocked, the idea behind it is a good one and encourages positive change in people’s lives. It’s healthy to have goals – it keeps you ambitious, motivated and is likely to improve your life for the better.

So remind yourself why your resolution is important to you – talk about it, write it on a sticky note and acknowledge any benefits you start to see as you make progress.

10 Don’t give up!

It’s easy to make a resolution – it’s not so easy to stick to it.

The luxury of a New Year’s Resolution is that you have the time to go off track a bit and then re-gain control.

So be patient, be consistent and finish 2019 with a sense of real accomplishment.

Good luck and Happy New year!

 

 

 

Eat your way to better sleep

We are all aware of the impact nutrition has on fuelling our bodies to take on the day, but what about the influence nutrition has on getting a good night sleep?

Sleep deprivation is not only leaving us feeling more tired, looking drained or with dark circles under our eyes – it is having a significant impact on our overall health.

Sleep is arguably the most undervalued component of health in modern society. It’s the first thing disregarded during times of stress or high pressure such as hitting that project deadline or juggling work and social life. We’ve all found ourselves up until the small hours cramming for an exam or preparing a presentation when in fact, improved concentration, a greater capacity to learn, as well as reduced stress levels are just a few of the potential benefits of a good night’s sleep.

Research suggests that impaired sleep can contribute to a number of health issues including weight gain, diabetes risk, impaired hormonal function and increased cravings for high sugar high fat foods to name a few.  Good sleep management has also been shown to convincingly reduce the prevalence of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes – even without weight loss.

So, what can you do to improve sleep quality?

  1. Eat a fibre-rich dinner
    Supporting your gut is essential for improving your sleep as melatonin (a hormone that regulates night and day cycles, so your body knows when to sleep and wake) is not only released in the brain but in the gut too. A healthy gut will help to absorb more melatonin and promote better sleep. Foods rich in fibre include: fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses and legumes.
  2. Eat foods containing tryptophan
    Tryptophan is an amino acid which is converted into serotonin (a natural mood stabiliser) and contributes to improved sleep. Foods rich in tryptophan include: eggs, nuts, dates, tofu, chickpeas, buckwheat and fish.
  3. Ensure adequate magnesium status
    Magnesium plays a key role in muscle and nerve relaxation. Food sources include quinoa, nuts, green leafy vegetables, black beans and dark chocolate. Bathing in an Epsom salt or magnesium chloride bath can also raise magnesium levels in the body while relaxing and relieving soreness.
  4. Limit caffeine intake
    This one may not be revolutionary news, but it’s important nonetheless.

    The stimulating effect of caffeine will persist for several hours – it takes around six hours for just half of the caffeine ingested to be eliminated, with this in mind, it’s not so surprising that one study found consuming caffeine even six hours before bedtime reduced total sleep time by an hour. Caffeine works as a stimulant by delaying the onset of adenosine, a molecule which signals the brain to relax. It also delays the onset of GABA a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect on the nervous system. In addition, caffeine has also been shown to influence other chemicals such as dopamine, leading to increased brain activity and feeling alert…all in all not a great recipe for sleep!

    While caffeine affects us all differently depending on a number of factors including: age, habitual intake and genetic makeup to name a few, if you are struggling to get consistently good quality sleep it is worth abstaining from caffeine after 2pm switching to caffeine-free herbal teas in the evening instead.

  5. Opt for a lighter evening meal
    Eating a large meal before you hit the hay has been shown to delay sleep latency, meaning it will take you longer to fall asleep. This could be due to a delayed secretion of melatonin and/or your gut still working to digest your food well past bed time. To encourage the onset of sleep aim to eat your evening meal no less than two hours before bed, if that’s not possible opt for a light, easily digestible dinner such as a simple salad or soup.
  6. Limit screen time
    The light omitted from phone and television screens inhibits melatonin release so try switching off an hour before bed to aid a restful sleep.

In modern society, time is a precious commodity – so why not protect your downtime, enable an earlier dinner, and free-up all breakfast and lunch preparation by letting our chefs do the hard work giving you your evenings back to relax, exercise and spend time with your family – all of which promoting a good night’s sleep.