To salt, or not to salt? 

Different types of salt. Sea, Himalayan and kitchen salt. Top view on three wooden spoons on black background

Different types of salt. Sea, Himalayan and kitchen salt. Top view on three wooden spoons on black backgroundIf salt could speak, it would undoubtedly complain about its reputation. Positioned as the bad boy of dietary minerals, its hidden presence in fast and convenience foods has got whole populations hooked on over-salted foods and contributed to the rising epidemic of coronary heart disease seen in the Western world.
However, salt, or rather the sodium chloride which it contains, is actually an essential nutrient. And because our bodies can’t produce it, it’s important that we consume safe amounts of sodium through a healthy diet.

 

Why it’s good

Salt is crucial for good health. We literally wouldn’t be able to function without it. It helps regulate the balance of fluids in our body, as well as control blood pressure. It’s also necessary for nerve, brain, cell, muscle and blood function.

In addition, sodium – along with potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphate – is an important electrolyte found in the body. (Electrolytes are minerals dissolved in the body’s fluids which create electrically charged ions. Your body needs a balance of them to function).

Lastly, salt is a taste hero, beloved by chefs due to its flavour boosting properties. For chef and food writer Samin Nosrat, salt is the starting point for her book ’Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking.’ “Salt has a greater impact on flavour than any other ingredient,” she says. “It softens bitterness, tames sweetness and brings out the flavour in almost any food.”

Nosrat suggests making the water for blanching vegetables as salty as the sea. Sceptical? She points out that most of the salt goes down the drain anyway. So why bother? Because a bit of cooking alchemy happens when you use salt. The vegetables are greener, they taste better and brighter and surprise, surprise, you use less salt at the table. And if vegetables taste better – in fact, if any home-cooked food tastes better – isn’t that a good thing?

 

Why it’s bad

Well, let’s not beat around the bush. Too much salt leads to all manner of bad health situations. Excess sodium increases blood pressure because it holds excess fluid in the body and that, in turn, creates an added burden on the heart. The knock-on effects are an increased risk of stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and kidney disease. And excessive sodium is a massive public health problem. So big in fact, that since 2005, regulators of the UK food industry have reduced salt in foods by 30%. But there’s still work to do.

 

The verdict?

Government guidelines recommend no more than 6g (or a teaspoon) of salt a day, and less for younger children. The trouble is, modern life can be relentless and the best intentions of home-cooked meals are often replaced with hastily purchased ready meals, laden with hidden salt. (About 75% of the salt we consume comes from convenience foods). Furthermore, our propensity to snack on salted nuts, crisps and cured meats just compounds the problem. The solution? Go back to basics:

  • Step away from the ready meals. Get the family involved and plan simple, easy to cook meals at home. If you automatically salt your food when it’s served, try and resist. Taste it first and season accordingly and sparingly.
  • Eat more potassium-rich foods. A recent study published in The Lancet suggested that foods containing potassium such as bananas, oranges, cooked spinach and mushrooms, can negate the effects of excessive salt consumption. These fruits and vegetables are not only great for controlling sodium but are important for maintaining good gut health.
  • Speak to your doctor if you’re concerned about salt and your health. They should give you a once over, check your blood pressure and make recommendations based on your diet and exercise.

 

Like most things in life, moderation is key.

Unless you follow a radical, sodium-free diet (which would be extremely difficult to do), think ‘low’ not ‘no’. Go for unprocessed foods, and where possible, cook from scratch with plenty of fruits and vegetables. And if someone offers you some salted caramel chocolates, go for it. But maybe just one or two.

At Balance Box, we add minimal salt to our food which makes it easier for you to control how much sodium is in your diet. Explore our range of healthy, delicious, perfectly balanced meals, delivered fresh to your door.

 

Feed your gut

In our recent prebiotics and fibre articles, we’ve looked at how a healthy gut is linked to our overall mental and physical wellness. Now it’s time to put it in to practice.

These recipes are packed full of digestion-friendly ingredients that will leave your microbiome in tip-top condition.

Mango and Chia Seed Yoghurt

This nutritional powerhouse of a recipe is packed with probiotics, fibre and mood-enhancing omegas. Probiotics are naturally found in yoghurt and are great for gut health, digestion, and the immune system. That’s on top of all the great health benefits of chia seeds which are full of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fibre. Enjoy for breakfast, a snack or even dessert.

 

Serves 4
257 Kcals per serving

Prep time: 5 minutes
Refrigeration time: 15 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 large ripe mango, peel and diced into 2cm pieces
  • 600g Greek yoghurt
  • 2 teaspoons of chia seeds

Preparation

  • Combine the diced mango and Greek yoghurt in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  • Stir the chia seeds into mango mixture and pour in a bowl or glass, then refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Chefs tip

Use coconut yoghurt in place of Greek yoghurt.

 

 

 

 

 

Wasabi Brown Rice & Soya Bean Salad

This salad is packed with flavour and simple to make. Brown rice is full of fibre and the vegetables give a healthy vibrant dose of prebiotics, essential for fuelling probiotics.

 

Serves 4
355 kCals per serving

Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes

Gluten Free, Vegetarian, Dairy Free, Wheat Free

Ingredients 

  • ½ small butternut squash, seeds scooped out
  • 100g brown rice
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 300g frozen soy beans, defrosted
  • 1 bunch/packet asparagus tips, trimmed
  • 2 handfuls rocket
  • 4cm piece cucumber
  • 4 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon wasabi paste
  • Small handful fresh coriander
  • ½ bunch spring onions, finely chopped
  • Small handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 pomegranate, kernels removed
  • 100g rocket, washed (to serve)

Preparation 

  • Cut the squash into small bite size pieces (leave the skin on the squash). Tip into a non-stick roasting tray and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  • Cook the rice in a pan of boiling water with the bouquet garni for 15 minutes until tender. Drain then tip into a large bowl. Discard the bouquet garni.
  • Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, throw in the asparagus and cook for 1 minute, add the soybeans and cook for a further 1 minute. Drain, and then cool under cold water. Pat dry and add the soybeans and asparagus to the bowl with the rice
  • Place the rocket, cucumber, rice vinegar, olive oil, wasabi paste and coriander into the bowl of a food processor or blender and blitz to a smooth green dressing. You may want to add some water to get it to the consistency you like your dressings.
  • Finely chop the spring onions and parsley. Mix through the rice.
  • Halve the pomegranate. Using a tablespoon, tap the skin of the pomegranate to release the kernels.

To serve 

Arrange the rocket on four serving plates. Spoon over the rice, soybean and asparagus mix and top with the roasted squash. Pour over the dressing, and garnish with pomegranate kernels.

Chefs tip

Wasabi, most commonly used as an accompaniment for sushi is a fiery horseradish so a little goes a long way. Don’t overdo it in this recipe or it will overpower the dressing.

 

Or, let us do the cooking

Get delicious, healthy gut-boosting meals delivered straight to your door by Balance Box.

 

You may be interested in:

Gut health: Your guide to prebiotics
Gut health: Jonny Wilkinson tackles kombucha
Gut health: Mind the (fibre) gap

Gut health: Mind the (Fibre) Gap

Health food for a high fiber diet with whole wheat pasta, grains, legumes, nuts, fruit, vegetables and cereals with foods high in omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins. Rustic background top view.

A high fibre diet with whole wheat pasta, grains, legumes, nuts, fruit, vegetables and cereals with foods high in omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins.

In our gut health series, we’ve explored all things prebiotic and interviewed former rugby star Jonny Wilkinson on the benefits of kombucha. Now we’re turning our focus to fibre.

Most of us know that we should aim to include plenty of fibre in our diets because it lowers the risk of serious conditions such as heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. So, why are most of us still not getting enough?

 

The British Nutrition Foundation recommends we eat 30g of fibre a day, but the average person eats just 18g. Taking a little time to understand exactly why fibre is so important can encourage us to make better dietary choices.

 

Researchers are fascinated by the gut microbiome  – the collective name for the trillions of microorganisms that live inside our intestines. A healthy gut is a remarkable piece of biological equipment and by looking after it, you can radically improve your overall health and wellbeing. Your digestive system needs plenty of fibre to keep it in good shape. There are two types of fibre, soluble (which dissolves easily in water) and insoluble. It’s important to include a wide range of different sources of fibre in your diet to make sure you’re getting enough of both.

 

When fibre is passed into the large intestine intact, it’s broken down by the good bacteria that live there. And that’s where the magic begins. The resulting carbs are used or stored as energy, and short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) are produced.

 

It’s these SCFAs that researchers are really getting excited about because they’ve been shown to provide a crucial link between the gut and the nervous system, acting as a neurotransmitter to create pathways between stomach and brain.

 

It’s no surprise, therefore, that depression and neurological disorders are often accompanied by digestive issues. Furthermore, around 80% of our immune cells actually sit within the gut and it’s estimated that 90% of the body’s serotonin – the ‘happy hormone’ – is made within the digestive tract.

 

So, next time you’re at the supermarket, think fibre. Reach for plenty of wholewheat bread, rice and pasta, load up with nuts, seeds and wholegrain cereals and bag yourself a rainbow of fresh and ideally organic fruits and vegetables. Chickpeas, pulses and beans are a fabulous source of fibre too.

 

Beware! Make sure you increase your water intake because fibre tends to sponge up the fluids in the gut and often leads to constipation. Too much fibre can overstimulate the gut and for people with conditions like Crohn’s, diverticulitis or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it can make symptoms worse.

 

At Balance Box, we create delicious meals and snacks that are rich and diverse in fibre. So, if you want to eat yourself happy and improve your wellbeing, do it the easy way with one of our healthy menu plans.

5 Glute Exercises to undo sitting all day

If you work from home or in a sedentary job, the amount of time you spend sat on you behind may have caused your bum muscles to snooze.

Strong glutes are important for posture and performance and this workout from boutique fitness studio Flex Chelsea, will help you engage and activate your sleepy glutes in no time.

Repeat all exercises between 12-20 times, on each side if necessary! Take 2-4 rounds of the full set to get your peach burning!

Weights and bands are optional.

 

 

Banded Sumo Squat

Take a wide stance with your feet, toes pointing outwards. Have your band just above your knees and squat down, trying to get your bum as close to the floor as you can for depth. Push your knees out against the band to engage your abductors and obtain the correct form (make sure your knees are not facing inwards, this takes the pressure off your glutes and can lead to potential injury). Ensure your upper body is in a stable upright position keeping your chest up, shoulders back and facing forwards not down. Imagine you are sitting down onto a chair. Ensure your glutes are engaged throughout the movement and really squeeze when you get to the top. Weights optional

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curtsy Lunge

With the front leg, have your toes pointing slightly outwards and your knee pointing outwards in the same direction. Keep your upper body upright and stable facing forwards, not the same direction as your toes. Bring the opposite leg behind you only slightly, so your front toes are in line with your back toes. From here lunge down, you should have a 90 degree angle on both legs, and push through the front leg engaging your front glute.

 

Single Leg Deadlift

You want to perform this movement in a similar manner to how you would perform a stiff leg deadlift. So engage your core, and push your hips to the back of the room as if you were trying to get your glutes to touch a wall behind you, keeping the chest up. You want to lift one leg off the floor so your upper body and leg are in a nice straight line, so you are in a “T” shape. It is important to keep the core really engaged so you are stable and squeeze your glutes the whole way through, use them to hinge your upper body up and down. This movement should be done slowly and controlled.

Ensure to keep your knee of the leg that is on the floor nice and soft, so it is not locked out for the movement as this puts too much pressure on your knees. If you are just starting out with this exercise, you can hold onto a chair for stability with one arm and ensure your form is correct before progressing. Weights optional

 

 

Straight Leg Donkey Kickbacks

The key to this exercise is keeping your back leg as straight as possible by engaging the quads. From here you lift the back leg up by squeezing your glutes and using them to power the movement, so they take the whole weight of your back leg. Keep your torso stable and your back flat and still by engaging your core. When lifting the back leg, the higher you go, the more you will feel it in your glutes, and squeeze your glutes for a one second hold at the top of the movement.

  1. Lift the back leg up in one fast, powerful movement using the glutes
  2. Hold for one second at the top continuing and squeeze your glute as hard as you can
  3. Lower the leg back down in a slow and controlled movement to increase time under tension of the muscle and really feel the burn

 

 

The Glute Bridge

With this movement, have your feet nice and wide, wider than shoulder-width and your toes pointing outwards. Have your weight through your heels and really drive them into the floor.

Ensure your knees are pointing outwards, if you are using a band, actively push your knees out against the band to engage your abductors (the side booty).

From here thrust your lower body upwards and squeeze your glutes as hard as you can. To lift your glutes off the floor you need to be using your pelvis, ensure you tuck your pelvis under. The thrust movement should be powered through your glutes and pelvis. Therefore your upper back should stay on the floor.

 

FLEX Chelsea is a stunning boutique fitness studio in the heart of London that offers challenging interval training, spin and a variety of yoga classes. And with Balance Box, up until the end of August you can save 15% on all classes you buy with code BalanceBox15 – don’t miss out! Discount code also applies to FLEX LIVE, the digital streaming service that brings live classes straight into your home, recently awarded Top 10 Global Livestream Studio by ClassPass.

Gut health: Jonny Wilkinson tackles kombucha

After exploring all things prebiotic in last week’s focus on gut health, today we’re talking to former England rugby star and founder of No.1 Living kombucha drinks company Jonny Wilkinson.

 

Jonny Wilkinson CBE is considered one of the greatest English rugby players of all time, yet throughout his career, he faced battles with depression and anxiety. Since retiring from the sport, he has been on a personal journey of discovery, exploring the connections between mental health and diet. His interest in fermented food and drink to help tackle physical and mental health issues led him to launch kombucha drinks company No.1 Living.

 

Kombucha has been drunk for centuries in China where it is prized for its detoxifying and energising properties. It has gained huge popularity in the UK due to claims that it can optimise gut health, reduce inflammation, and boost mood. Kombucha is the product of tea fermentation and a number of probiotic bacteria are produced which at specific concentrations, can help balance the gut microbiome and improve digestion, boost your body’s immunity, and support your mental health. While claims remain anecdotal, Jonny is in no doubt of the benefits of kombucha to his health and wellbeing.

 

Here he tells us of his journey to making kombucha, his new perspective on health, and why we should focus on our food choices.

 

How have you been looking after yourself during lockdown?

I have been enjoying the challenge to my creativity that the imposed physical limits have presented. Through gratitude for being alive and well and with respect to those who have been personally affected – and who have been putting their health on the line for us – I have seen how I can make more and more of every moment.

 

What does health mean to you?

Health is the unlimited potential of our being. It is the incredible intelligence of the body and its seamless and constantly interactive relationship with the planet around it. Exploring this is a never-ending opportunity and it what I see as nutrition and diet.

 

How has your diet changed since you left the rugby pitch?

My lifestyle has changed and so have the demands upon my body. I have different passions and requirements and as a result, I am eating to help tune myself to being able to do what I need and want to do – today as this version of me – as effortlessly and joyfully as possible. This means eating less, eating fresher, investing more of myself in meal preparation, becoming more aware of compassion to animals and quality of farming, and finally becoming far more conscious of how I eat and enjoy the experience – which is very different from how things used to be.

 

What made you start a beverage company?

I have always been fascinated if a little obsessed with my potential and what I am capable of. Towards the end of my rugby career, I started to realise that this potential lies in mental and physical health and wellbeing and not where I was looking for it in fitness, achievements, respect and recognition. It was this realisation that led me to a living diet and as my wife and I were making kombucha at home, this revealed itself as the perfect entry opportunity.

 

When did you discover kombucha?

I had been exploring all kinds of other more natural and harmonious product opportunities within the diet and nutrition space beginning around 2011 but my journey into mental health and my wife’s journey towards becoming a nutritionist came together over the discovery of kombucha around 2014.

 

What is your favourite food?

It constantly changes but our No.1 Living kombucha is always right up there and I drink it every day. I also love fresh vegetables, fruit and salad and even more so since we have begun growing our own at home. Picking it and eating it straight from the source is a fabulous experience.If you could give one piece of advice about food, what would it be?

My view is that our bodies are essentially made up of the food we have consumed. We don’t just fuel the body; we constantly build and rebuild it too. Our vehicle for experiencing life is determined by our food choices and the quality of our digestion too. Therefore, what we eat and how we eat matters more than we can imagine. The body comes from the soil so eating closer to the planet, eating respectfully and eating joyfully all make a difference to the way life happens for us mentally, physically, emotionally, and in every other way possible.

 

These are all sentiments that we at Balance Box can agree with and it is why it is so important to us to carefully source and prepare the ingredients that go in your meal plans.

 

Find out more about Jonny’s story as the founder of No.1 Living.

No.1 Living are offering Balance Box customers 20% off your first order with the code BALANCE20. Valid until 31 August.

 

You may be interested in:

 

Gut Health: Your Guide to Prebiotics

So, you’ve just got your head around probiotics, but what about prebiotics? To maintain optimal health, it’s essential to incorporate both into your diet to keep your gut – and consequently the rest of your body – tickety-boo. Read on

Gut health: Your Guide to Prebiotics

Gut Health: Your Guide to Prebiotics

So, you’ve just got your head around probiotics, but what about prebiotics? To maintain optimal health, it’s essential to incorporate both into your diet to keep your gut – and consequently the rest of your body – tickety-boo.

Probiotics are ‘good bacteria’. Think kefir, sauerkraut and kombucha. These fabulous, fermented foods contain millions of friendly microbes that, once inside your gut, boost your body’s immunity, encourage healthy gut function and support your mental health. Collectively, they’re known as the microbiome or gut flora. Think of them as your personal and peace-loving inner army. But, remember an army marches on its stomach. So, what are you going to feed them?

 

That’s where prebiotics come in. Prebiotics are fertiliser for the gut. Foods rich in carbs and dietary fibre, which humans can’t digest, are golden for your microbiota. These foods reach the colon undigested and are fermented by your gut flora, resulting in an array of health benefits for you. Bananas, legumes, oats, berries, asparagus and onions…the list is a long (and delicious).

Diversity, however, is key. And 60% of Brits don’t reach the daily recommended amount of dietary fibre a day. If you want to ensure you’re feeding your digestive bacteria properly, try to include two servings of fruit and five portions of vegetables (seeds and wholegrains count too) every day.

 

Top tips for a happier gut.

  • Raw is more. Raw food contains more prebiotics than cooked. Simply swap boiled vegetables for a fresh salad.
  • Caution! Prebiotics feed bad bacteria too so make sure you’re eating a balanced diet of whole foods and reduce your sugar intake. Too much sugar and processed food creates an imbalance in the gut.
  • Water, water, everywhere. If you’re not used to a lot of fibre it can be a shock to the system at first. Stay hydrated with plenty of water. Keep a bottle with you through the day to sip on.

 

Prebiotic picks. Our favourites include:

  • Artichokes – rich in folate which supports healthy cell division (great for pregnant women or those who want to start a family). Folate also stimulates bile flow which helps digestion and supports liver health. Contains a number of flavonoids that feed the good bacteria and promote a balanced inflammatory response.
  • Blueberries – rich in antioxidants so help to buffer inflammation.
  • Flax seeds – rich in omega 3 fatty acids so a great plant source of healthy fats.
  • Bananas – gentle on the gut and have mucilaginous effect which essentially translates into ‘better gut function’.
  • Oats – known for their beta-glucans and their effect on insulin and blood glucose modulation.
  • Mushrooms – stimulate immune cells and therefore modulate immune response.
  • Garlic – anti-viral and anti-microbial properties. Inhibits plaque formation on top of the standard prebiotic benefits.

Are you worried you’re not getting enough variety in your diet? We create nutritionally balanced meals, packed with an array of prebiotics, to help keep you (and your gut) healthy. Order now

The Ultimate Food Quiz

Many of us have taken to family games whilst in lockdown so we’ve rounded up our favourite food facts for the ultimate food quiz to keep you entertained. Good luck! 

 

1. Which of these is not a mushroom? 

      • Lion’s Mane 
      • Turkey Tail 
      • Chicken of the Woods 
      • Tumbling Tiger 

 

 

2. Which of these fat sources has no cholesterol?  

      • Animal 
      • Vegetable 
      • Mineral 
      • Fruit 

 

3. What was the first food to be grown in space? 

      • Potatoes 
      • Lettuce 
      • Cucumber 
      • Radishes 

 

4. Which of these foods offers more protein per 100 grams?  

      • Chicken breast  
      • Almonds 
      • Caterpillars 
      • Pulses  

 

 

5. Which of these is off-limits if you’re a vegan?  

      • Broccoli 
      • Soy milk 
      • Honey 
      • Marmite 

 

6. Whole grains are not found in which of these foods?  

      • White bread 
      • Oatmeal 
      • Brown rice 
      • Popcorn 

 

7. The first food to be deliberately cooked in a microwave was 

      • Popcorn 
      • Eggs 
      • Porridge 
      • Rice 

 

8. Which is the only vitamin you will not find in an egg 

      • Vitamin C 
      • Vitamin A 
      • Vitamin D 
      • Vitamin E 

 

9. What is the most popular fruit in the world? 

      • Apple 
      • Banana 
      • Tomato 
      • Orange 

 

 

10. Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of what? 

      • Finding a spider in your food 
      • Getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth 
      • A knife scraping across a plate 
      • Eating alone 

 

Answers: 

1. Tumbling Tiger2. Caterpillars, 3. Vegetable, 4. Lettuce, 5. Honey, 6. White bread, 7. Popcorn, 8. Vitamin C, 9. Tomato, 10. Getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth 

Acts of Kindness to Boost Mental Health

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and this year, in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the theme is kindness.  Kindness makes us and the world a better place. It seems intuitive, but sometimes it can be forgotten in our busy lives.   

 

During lockdown we’ve seen so many acts of kindness: Captain Tom Moore’s record-breaking charity walk; scores of volunteers helping at food banks; sewers stitching scrubsneighbours lending a helping hand to the vulnerable who cannot leave their homes, as well as the heart-warming stories we heard during our Continued Kindness campaign where we gifted a Balance Box to those who’s acts of kindness had a beneficial effect on their community.  

 

As lockdown eases, it is right to consider how we can continue to maintain kindness within our society. 

 

Kindness is defined by doing something towards yourself and others that is motivated by a desire to make a positive difference. Kindness and mental health are deeply connected. It’s a scientific fact that being kind improves feelings of happiness, wellbeing and life satisfaction and a little bit of kindness goes a long way! 

 

Dr David R Hamilton, author of The Little Book of Kindness  tells us that it is “circularly contagious, like the way a wave travels outwards in a circle when you drop a pebble in water… Each time you are kind, you really are impacting far more than just the person you help”. He goes on to say when you are kind to a person, they will be kinder to an average of 5 other people over 24 hours. Each of those 5 people continues the act of kindness resulting in 125 people benefiting from a single act of kindness.   

 

The good news is that doing good doesn’t need to cost a lot of time or money. Small changes can make a big difference.  

 

With that in mind, we put our heads together at Balance Box HQ and came up with 20 random acts of kindness we can do for ourselves and others. 

 

  1. Call a friend that you haven’t spoken to in a while 
  2. Offer to pick up the groceries for a neighbour 
  3. Send someone a handwritten note 
  4. Tell someone you know that you are proud of them 
  5. Send a motivational message to a friend who is struggling 
  6. Sign up to do voluntary work in the local community 
  7. Reach out to a friend, family member or neighbour who is feeling lonely 
  8. Lend your ear – listen to a friend or colleague who is having a bad day 
  9. Make a charitable donation 
  10. Make someone a cup of tea or coffee 
  11. Tell someone they look beautiful today 
  12. Do the tidying up without being asked 
  13. Gift your favourite book to a friend 
  14. Plant some herbs, flowers or a tree 
  15. Make someone a personal playlist 
  16. Take towels to an animal shelter 
  17. Set up a fundraiser for an issue close to your heart 
  18. Pay someone an honest compliment 
  19. Thank someone for being them 
  20. Tell someone you love them 

 

So, what are you waiting for? Boost your mood – go spread a little kindness and watch the ripples unfurl.  

The Balance Box Guide to Healthy Snacking 

Fruit, nuts, seeds and energy bars lined up

As we find ourselves confined to our homes, many of will find our food intake rocketing – whether it is through comfort eating, boredom or genuine hunger. 

 

Being at home all day you will feel inclined to graze more than usual but the chances are you aren’t being as physically active as usual so need less calories. We’re not saying don’t snack – snacking is a natural urge that is necessary for optimal health – but make healthy choices rather than reaching for the biscuit tin. 

 

When mid-morning and mid-afternoon come around, we all feel a pang of hunger. Your body is telling you it has hit an energy slump and needs refuelling. There is always the temptation to grab a sugary treat but eating sugar has a negative effect on focus and energy levels so you’re much better off sticking to foods such as nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.  

 

If you are in one of our food programmes you know that we consider snacking important to achieving consistent energy levels and a healthy body. These snacks needn’t be boring and uninspiring. Our clients love our snack bars and our recipe for coconut, date and cashew bliss balls has been one of our most popular yet! 

 
Fresh fruit is an ideal mid-morning snack, and if consumed with a handful of nuts or seeds, you will feel full for longer. As well as being packed with protein and essential fats, nuts and seeds slow down the rate at which the fruit’s sugars are absorbed by the body, steadying blood-sugar levels. Our favourites include a peach and a palm full of pecans, a banana and walnuts or kiwi fruit and sunflower seeds. Want to dress it up a bit? Sprinkle some almonds with a little smoked paprika.  

 

In the afternoon, opt for something savoury such as one tablespoon of your favourite nut butter spread on toasted rye. In her book, The Balanced Diet, Jennifer suggests making your own simple dips, they take moments to make. Try mashing or blending a tin of butterbeans with a handful of sundried tomatoes or pesto. Or mash an avocado with black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Scoop your dips up with crisp raw slices of vegetable such a carrot or pepper.   

 

Need a little help to stay on track? Order a Balance Box. Containing three meals a day, we make sure to include two delicious snacks every day to keep your cravings at bay and ensure you are eating at regular intervals. 

How to grow your own kitchen herb garden

Whether you’re short on space, do not have access to a garden or wish to have more plants in your home, there something very satisfying about growing your own kitchen herb garden. Herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow and will transform your efforts in the kitchen. 

Not only do you gain deliciously scented fresh herbs to add to you cooking all year round, plants are good of your health and happiness, purifying the air and creating a calming atmosphere.   

 

Our founder Jennifer is a keen gardener, so we asked her for her top tips for growing herbs indoors. 

 

 

Choose herbs you cook with the most frequently.

My favourite herbs to grow indoors are basil, parsley and rosemary but I also like to grow chillies. They are great to have to hand and aesthetically pleasing.  

 

Choose a sunny location

Light is key to the health of your plants. A south or east facing window is best. Rotate your pots and move them around as light and seasons shift. 

 

Use a container with good drainage.

Choose pots with drain holes and saucers or place small pebbles at the at the base of your pot to aid drainage. I like to recycle Balance Box pots into plant containers. I heat a kitchen utensil and burn little holes in the bottom for drainage and add a few pebbles to the bottom. Add soil and sprinkle seeds over the top. Scatter a little more earth on top and water.  

 

Don’t over-water your herbs.

The idea is to keep the soil damp, not saturated. It is best to water your plants in the morning and late afternoon when it’s a little shadier.  Wait until your herbs are mature before harvesting for the first time. Never harvest more than one third and wait for it to grow back before harvesting again.  

 

Pick your herbs from the top.

This will ensure your plants stay bushy. If you pick from the side, they will grow tall and spindly. Take the large leaves first, giving the baby leaves chance to grow. Also, remove the flowers to prevent your herbs from going to seed. 

 

In a hurry?

While growing from seed can be more rewarding, it takes a lot more time to get to the point where you’ll have herbs that are mature enough to eat. If you want your herb garden to be ready now there is nothing wrong with buying potted herb plants from the shops. Just pop then in you Balance Box pot or a larger container so they have more space to grow and keep then hydrated. Buy a few more plants than you need. They will look great on your windowsill, and you’ll be able to harvest and rotate your pots as cook with them. 

 

Recipes to add your home-grown herbs to:

Roasted Asparagus and Baby Tomatoes with Basil and Parmesan 

Grilled Lamb Cutlets with Mint Raita 

Warmed Pineapple with Orange & Basil