How to fit exercise into your busy life

Sporty funny attractive woman having lunch in kitchen while practicing yoga, standing in Tree exercise, Vrksasana pose, work out in white sportswear, enjoying food, indoor, home interior background

Build positive habits and make self-care a priority

For most of us, modern life is a juggling act. Childcare, career, admin and social commitments jostle for space in our already bursting diaries. The result? We’re often left with little or no time for our best laid exercise goals. If fitness has slipped to the sleepy depths of your to-do list, it’s time to prioritise. The benefits of regular exercise are huge, including increased energy levels, improved mood and weight loss.

If you’re left with minimal time to work out, follow these practical tips to add more exercise into your day.

 

  1. Marginal gains. Brush your teeth standing in a squat position. Park or alight further away from work and power walk into the office. Take the stairs instead of lifts and escalators. Do ten burpees while waiting for the kettle to boil. Weave these kinds of movements into your everyday life and you should see a positive effect on your overall fitness.
  2. Plan, plan and plan some more. If you’re serious about getting in shape, don’t leave things to chance. It’s a fact that if you schedule time in for exercise, you are more likely to actually do it. Book a personal trainer session and stick it in your diary. Commit to a lunch time run with a colleague. Sign-up for an organised event so you have something to work towards. Make exercise a non-negotiable priority.
  3. Rope in your family and friends. Want to meet up with friends but desperate for some time to exercise? Suggest you get together for a hike or a climbing session. Visiting a relative but don’t fancy the idea of sitting down for hours? Head outside and meet them for a walk. It sounds obvious, but this way of thinking can really make a difference. Multi-tasking is an effective and fun way to maximise your precious time.

 

Balance Box specialises in healthy, delicious and perfectly portioned meals. Let us take care of your nutrition so you can take care of everything else.

Sporty funny attractive woman having lunch in kitchen while practicing yoga, standing in Tree exercise, Vrksasana pose, work out in white sportswear, enjoying food, indoor, home interior background

Do aphrodisiacs really work?

Close up of young couple toasting with glasses of red wine at restaurant

What actually is an aphrodisiac?

Derived from the name Aphrodite – the Greek goddess of love – an aphrodisiac is a food, drink or substance that stimulates sexual desire.

But do aphrodisiacs really work or are they a fallacy?

As Valentine’s Day approaches, we thought we’d do a little research to see which foods have been scientifically proven to stimulate sexual desire and boost faded libidos.

You may be surprised to hear that many of the classic foods associated with inducing sexual appetite, such as champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, don’t contain any properties proven to stimulate libido. Still, don’t let this put you off serving them if you’re feeling in the mood to impress. Instead, why not supplement them with the foods linked to arousal and sexual performance listed below.

  • Zinc is one of the best nutrients to help support a healthy reproductive system. It increases both testosterone levels and sperm count in males. This might be where the idea of oysters, steak and lobster came from as the ultimate Valentine’s Day meal – these foods are all high in zinc. Vegetarian foods bursting with this magical mineral include almonds, pumpkin seeds, lentils and chickpeas.
  • Maca is a Peruvian plant that has become popular due to its hormonal balancing and libido enhancing properties. It’s easy to find in powder form and is a cinch to add to smoothies, soups, salad dressings and baking recipes.
  • Ginseng is an herb that has been shown to increase energy levels. Assuming this heightened vigour is then used in the bedroom, it’s fair to say that ginseng is an indirect aphrodisiac. Used in Chinese medicine to promote blood flow and strength, ginseng has been claimed to improve erectile dysfunction. Take it as a tea or in powder form.

The key to an enhanced libido is to improve your energy levels holistically. As well as incorporating the above foods into your diet, make sure you eat a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables and carve out time for good quality sleep.

 

Close up of young couple toasting with glasses of red wine at restaurant

Superfoods unmasked

Superfoods are not magic bullets. The media love to label a constantly changing succession of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds as ‘super’, dazzling us with their powerful properties and nutritional jargon. We’re bombarded with messages like, ‘This one food will speed up weight loss!’ or ‘Eat more anthocyanins to prevent cancer!’ Claims like these can make nutrition a confusing game indeed.

But despite the impressive health benefits many plants provide, they won’t do anything for us in isolation. Eating processed foods everyday does not constitute a healthy diet if you sometimes snack on a handful of goji berries. Superfoods are not superheroes. They can’t rescue us if the rest of our intake is inadequate.

The unvarnished truth is that optimal nutrition is extremely complex and differs from person to person. If you eat a balanced diet containing a rich variety of fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly and limit your alcohol intake, you don’t need to obsess over the latest so-called superfood.

We prefer to think of ‘superplates’ rather than superfoods – so try and make sure every meal you have is bursting with nutrients.

At Balance Box, we pack up to 10 portions of fruit and vegetables into our client’s daily programme. And if we sneak in a few goji berries, it’s because we like the taste.

Diet Myths

There’s a dizzying array of information about what’s hot and what’s not in the world of healthy eating. At Balance Box, we’re all about delicious, healthy food that makes your life easier, not harder. We’ve busted the most common diet myths so you can make the right choices for your body.

“Gluten is so bad for you”

Actually, it’s not. Unless you’re celiac, gluten-intolerant or have a wheat allergy, there’s no reason to remove gluten from your diet. Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye and spelt. Although it’s not unhealthy in itself, its appearance in highly processed foods like biscuits, white bread and pastries gives it a bad reputation.

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”
Studies have shown that skipping breakfast can be beneficial because it gives the digestive system a break. We naturally fast at night-time anyway, so extending this until midday can sometimes be a good move if you’ve overindulged. Whether you’re too busy to eat in the mornings, or you sit down to a home-cooked breakfast every day, don’t worry. The key here is that when you do eat your first mouthful, make sure it’s a nutritious one.

“You’ll gain fat if you eat after 6pm or before bed”
If you end your day with a balanced, delicious meal, it doesn’t matter if you eat it at 8pm or 9pm. We all lead busy lives and so later meals are becoming the norm. However, digestion uses a lot of energy and can interfere with your sleep patterns, so ideally, try not to eat for at least three hours before bedtime. But don’t stress and spend the night hungry and grumpy if you get home late. Unless you’re a gremlin, eating after midnight every now and then is not the end of the world.

“Carbs are bad for you”

Carbohydrates are the main source of the body’s energy so you don’t want to cut them out altogether. What you do want to watch, however, are the processed carbs which score high on the Glycemic Index. These foods, such as white bread, biscuits, pastries and cakes will cause a spike and subsequent crash in blood sugar levels, causing you to reach for the biscuit tin in an endless loop. If you want to lose weight, reach for wholegrain breads and pasta with plenty of fresh vegetables instead.

“Keto is the way to go

The ketogenic diet is a low carb, high fat approach to eating. It causes your body to go into a state of ‘ketosis’ meaning it burns fat stores rather than food for energy. Any diet that induces a calorie deficit will lead to weight loss and keto is no different. However, take caution – there are no significant studies to show that keto leads to long-term weight loss, nor improved health. In fact, some studies have shown it to be harmful long-term.

“Detox diets are a silver bullet”

Some detox diets are so extreme that they can do more harm than good. Weight loss may result from existing solely on celery juice for seven days, but this is different to fat loss and can exhaust your glycogen stores. Don’t confuse detox diets with clean eating either. It’s always a good idea to enjoy whole foods with minimal sugar, trans fats and preservatives, but don’t obsess about it. Unless you have a medical condition, the kidneys and liver are superstars at detoxing the body naturally.

“Protein is bad for you”

Protein is the most important macro nutrient to pay attention to when losing weight. It supports our joints and boosts our bones, so it’s particularly crucial to hit your recommended daily intake as you age. Fears about red meat causing cancer are vastly exaggerated too. Upping levels of plant-based food, exercising more and quitting smoking will significantly reduce your chances of cancer more than restricting red meat alone.

“Fat is bad for you

A small amount of ‘good’ fat is crucial for our bodies to function properly. But trans-fats and saturated fats have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Reduce the amount of fatty meats, hard cheeses, biscuits, cakes and cream in your diet and enjoy unsaturated fats in foods such as olive oil, avocados, brazil nuts and oily fish. Salmon, trout, and mackerel are loaded with omega-3 and omega-6 which are an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet.

“Vegetarian and vegan diets are healthier”

Vegetarian and vegan foods don’t necessarily indicate a healthier diet. If you replace meat and dairy with sweets, refined carbohydrates and processed foods, you’re not going to lose weight or feel better. If you want to give-up meat, make sure you include plenty of plant-based protein such as pulses and beans.

Could a digital detox help you lose weight?

We live in a world of convenience where everything is just a finger swipe away. This means that even the most disciplined of us often find it hard to resist the time-wasting pitfalls of mindless scrolling.

Taking a break from your phone has been shown to improve mental wellbeing. But what about physical health? What if reducing those hours staring at a screen could benefit our waistline?

Melatonin is the hormone which regulates our circadian rhythm and signals to our body that it’s time to nod off. As little as two hours of exposure to light emitted from our devices can suppress melatonin production by 22%, meaning late night social media binges can cause significantly disrupted sleep patterns.

The knock-on effect is that a lack of sleep is linked to weight gain. This is because our body favours the production of ghrelin (the appetite increasing hormone) over leptin (the appetite suppressing hormone) when we’re tired. The result of bad sleep? We crave sugary, fatty junk foods to increase our energy levels. A regular intake of calorific foods means our body stores the excess energy as fat and we find it hard to shift the weight.
So, next time you find yourself falling into a digital rabbit hole of bedtime scrolling, switch off your phone, get some decent shut-eye and start reaping the weight loss benefits.

New Year, New You

January, AKA the month of good intentions, is here. For most of us, it’s a time of reflection and goal setting as we strive to improve our health and wellbeing. ‘I’m only going to eat once a day and give up carbohydrates/cheese/alcohol!’ is a commonly heard cry. But although it’s good to address the balance of your diet, beware— knee-jerk reactions against the excesses of Christmas can sometimes do more harm than good.

 

Be kind to yourself

Try to think of your nutrition holistically, paying attention to what, when and how you eat as opposed to just how much. Choose foods that will enrich your body, not inflame it and gently tweak your overall approach to wellbeing. If you have an off-day and find yourself devouring a tub of salted caramel ice cream, don’t beat yourself up. Nobody’s perfect. Just gently remind yourself of your health intentions and start the next day with a fresh, focussed and positive mind-set.

 

Choose quality over quantity

Sustained weight loss should not be approached with quick fixes such as skipping meals and reducing portions to miniscule amounts. Although there is undoubtedly a link between weight management and the amount of food we take in, there is more to this equation than meets the eye. Consuming highly inflammatory foods like processed meats, refined carbohydrates and alcohol triggers our body into a state of immune activation and physiological stress. This is bad news for weight loss because these types of food, regardless of portion size, do not allow us to easily digest and process beneficial nutrients.

 

Get a grip on stress

Hormones and blood glucose levels are the often-overlooked gate-keepers to weight loss. Pay special attention to them through good nutrition, quality sleep and exposure to natural sunlight, and you should reap the rewards. Stress in particular is a tyrant of the tummy, having been linked to the accumulation of the dreaded visceral fat around our abdomen. Try daily meditation (there are loads of apps out there), along with balanced meals and you’ll be wriggling into those too-tight-jeans in no time.

 

 

At Balance Box we create meals which are perfectly balanced. Our boxes are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which allow the body to assist with the elimination of toxins and support sustainable weight loss.

Sustainable Christmas

We can all get a bit carried away at Christmas.  With climate change being topical at the moment and peppered across the news, whether in the newspapers or online, we are all trying to be very conscious of waste.

Our Founder, Jennifer Irvine has said “the last thing I want for my legacy is a big pile of plastic left on this planet”.

We generate 30 per cent more waste over the Christmas period and we are looking at ways we can help everyone to cut the waste in our kitchens this Christmas, so we have come up with our top tips:

 

  • Minimise food waste. Food sent to landfill produces methane and which is more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, generating approximately 8 % of global green house gas emissions each year. So, think about whether you will in the end actually eat it all.

 

  • Why not try eating a more veggie diet – at least in part over the holidays? You could have some meat free meals leading up to the big day. Making that Christmas turkey taste even more delicious!

 

  • Where you are buying meat perhaps you could try and buy organic or free-range? It may be slightly more costly but with meat it really is quality over quantity.

 

  • We mentioned this before in our ‘Zero-waste journey, but how?’ blog on our website but planning your food shop not only saves you time when you’re in the shop, or saves you a few pennies in your purse (due to panic buys) but will save how much food waste you have at the end of the festive break.

 

  • Now even if you do plan, and cut down on ingredients it is very likely that you will still have leftovers, because well, have all the things we like to eat at Christmas right? That’s not a problem because there are lots of yummy dishes you can make with Christmas dinner leftovers such our as our home-made turkey broth soup :  bubble and squeak, and many more.

 

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.