Starting out snacking

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If you’re at the point where you are feeling able to introduce new things into your diet, then I know you might feel both excited and daunted at the same time (I know I did!). Because I didn’t have the proper medical support I needed as I was getting better, I decided that the best way to recover and heal my body physically was simply to put weight on. I was purely focused on weight, and still didn’t love myself enough to want to look after my body. So I stuffed my face with junk food and slowly I watched the number on the scale rise until I was at a ‘safe weight’.

Aside from the obvious negatives for my mental wellbeing through all this, it was also harmful for my damaged body. My body had been through something incredibly distressing – yet at the time I was too young (and too poorly) to comprehend that. Looking back now with the knowledge I have of the human body and how it works, I am astonished that I didn’t do more damage not only due to the Anorexia, but also due to the way I recovered.

I know that from a professional perspective recovery of all types should be encouraged and I would never tell you to ‘eat this’ or ‘not to eat that’. As long as you are repairing your body, improving your relationship with yourself and food and rebuilding your life, then that is all that matters. However I do like to think that if we have a choice in what we eat, we could make some nutrient-rich choices which will nourish our desperate bodies and give us the helping hand we need as we recover. It’s only in recent years long after recovery that I have become especially interested in nutrition – and without that knowledge, I genuinely believe I wouldn’t have the energy to run my business, write this blog or finish my books.

I always found the concept of snacking really difficult whilst I was unwell and so I had a think about snacks you could introduce into your diet which aren’t too frightening for you mentally, but physically have plenty of fantastic benefits for your body and brain. Here’s my list below of my top 3 snacks you could try – as always if you have your own to add, please contact me!

Whole Milk: I love milk. It really has been a saviour for me in recent years when I have been unable to eat because of my IBS – because it contains lots of vitamins and minerals in addition to healthy fat and energy. No, it is not ideal to substitute food for milk – however I think milk really does have its place as a snack. I love throwing mine in a blender with cocoa powder, protein powder and collagen powder.

Wholesome Bars: Recently I discovered Fossil Fuel bars – and fell in love. I thought they’d be perfect for this post because I love ‘fast food’ which is delicious, easy to eat and 100% nutritious. They are similar to current offerings on the market but what I like about them is they are larger in size and pack a real flavour punch. They have no nasty ingredients in them but they do offer plenty of energy – so this means that if you are panicked or don’t feel able to tackle food on a given day or at a given mealtime, you can snack on one of these knowing it’s MUCH better than nothing.

Cheese: I often snack on cheese if I’m pushed for time and starving hungry. I know some of you might be HORRIFIED that I have suggested cheese because of its fat content but as you will know if you have read Recipes for Recovery, fat don’t make you fat. You don’t have to have lots of cheese to get a decent hit of energy and taste – so I think this is an especially good one for anyone who is frightened of quantity rather than the actual content of what they eat.

Do you have any snacks you are rediscovering currently (or have you tried any of the above?) If so, please get in touch!

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Foods For Recovery: Oats

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Oats. A pretty unremarkable, boring-looking superfood. Without the snazzy bright colours which blueberries and beetroot boast, they are admittedly a little bit beige! Not the most exciting colour. But there’s nothing boring about the benefits that oats boast for your body!

I love oats. I love porridge, flapjacks and I often use oats in my cakes and cookies. They’re really versatile as a food and because they aren’t overpoweringly flavoured, they’re a great base to add whatever toppings you fancy to.

I love plain oats or chocolate oats made with whole milk to make them creamy, but it’s not just the taste I love. I have lots of oat recipes in the book purely because not only are they incredibly yummy, they’re also very good for you – especially for recovering bodies.

Oats are high in fibre and protein, so they’re good for energy and digestion. They also contain good amounts of Manganese, a mineral which supports skin, hair and bone health – as well as iron and a host of other vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Because you’re unlikely to consume oats dry(!), you’re also getting the added benefit of yoghurt or milk and the toppings you choose – like berries and nuts. If you buy them in their raw state they’re also 100% natural – so what’s not to like??

Have you tried oats? If so, what’s your favourite way to eat them?

 

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Foods For Recovery: Avocado

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I have to admit I don’t eat lots of fruit – but avocado is one of my favourite fruits. Embarrassingly I thought it was a vegetable until not that long ago (oops!) I often have avocado with smoked salmon or in salads – it’s really versatile and some people even make desserts with avocado!

For me it’s a great recovery food because it’s really nutritious and dense in good things for the body. Even a small serving provides good amounts of vitamins K, C, B5, B6 and E – PLUS Magnesium, Iron, Potassium Zinc, Thiamin, Riboflavin and Niacin. Phew! That’s without mentioning that avocadoes are full of healthy fats which are good for the body as a whole but especially the heart, in addition to high amounts of fibre which make it easily digestible.

You can make a really easy guacamole simply by mashing an avocado with chopped tomatoes and paprika – or simply slice it up and enjoy it with cheese, steak or fish. If you’re not a fan (it is a little slimy which isn’t to everyone’s taste!) then how about popping it in a smoothie?

Are you trying avocado?

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Foods for Recovery – Coconut

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I am an official coconut mega-fan. I have coconut every day – that’s how much I love it!

My love for coconut started when I started with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) a few years ago, because I can digest it with no problems. I started using desiccated coconut in my food and then began to use coconut oil and coconut flour in my baking.

Fast forward a few years, and coconut has recently been hailed a superfood (something I was delighted about!). With that, many products have seen increased popularity. Coconut oil and coconut flour are now widely used and much more readily available.

So why is coconut so good for you?

Coconut has such a wide range of benefits for the body in all its forms. Coconut oil in particular is a good all-rounder for the body because it is rich in fatty acids and is a good source of energy as well as containing Lauric Acid, which has lots of different uses in the body but notably helps maintain healthy skin and hair. It also helps to look after your digestive tract as it has anti-microbial pro-biotic properties which keep stomach nasties and yeast at bay.

What coconut products can I try?

Coconut is really versatile – meaning there’s lots of different by-products. Here are a few I use below, what they are and how you can use them.

Coconut Water

Coconut water is what you can hear sloshing around inside a coconut – but the type you drink comes from a young coconut which is softer and green – not the matured brown hairy variety. It’s rich in electrolytes (which aid hydration) and naturally sweet, yet fairly low in sugar. The best way to enjoy coconut water is straight out of a fresh young green coconut – but unfortunately we don’t have that luxury here in the UK! There are lots of different varieties of coconut water now, some with added fruit pulps which are very nice. I like Zico and Unoco – and Vita Coco do lovely ‘lemonade’ and ‘mango’ varieties.

Coconut Oil

I use coconut oil a lot in my baking and also have a spoonful every morning with my breakfast. It has a distinctive sweet coconut flavour – some people use it in savoury dishes but I only like it for sweets! Along with coconut water, coconut oil was arguably the first coconut product to receive renowned nutritional status. Tesco now sell cold-pressed, organic coconut oil for around £6 but Coconoil, Lucy Bee, Biona and Tiana are all good quality brands which can be found online.

Coconut Butter

Coconut butter is similar to coconut oil but is less greasy and has the same relationship to coconut oil as olive oil spread might have to olive oil. I use coconut butter in baking and for making raw chocolate – it has a less strong coconut flavour than the oil but is rich and creamy. I like Biona Coconut Bliss – but Tiana also do lots of different types of oils and butters some with added Omega 3.

Coconut Flour         

Coconut flour is basically dried milled coconut meat which takes a powdery flour-like form. It’s higher in protein than its counterparts and is also rich in fibre as well as having some of the other antioxidant and nutritional benefits of coconut. It’s really versatile and great for baking; it has a sweet slightly coconutty taste so if I don’t want to make a coconut dish I usually mix it with almond or rice flour. You can get coconut flour from lots of online health stores or on eBay.

Coconut Palm Sugar

Coconut palm sugar or ‘palm sugar’ comes from the sap of flowers from the coconut palm tree. It looks like brown sugar and similarly has a rich caramel flavour which I just love and which makes it perfect for toffee and caramel dishes – but for that reason it’s not always suitable for lighter desserts. I use organic coconut sugar which can be sourced quite easily online from Biona or eBay.

Flaked/Desiccated Coconut

The most familiar form of coconut in western diets until its emergence as a popular health food, the older generations of our families will be familiar with coconut from ice buns and coconut ice sweets! It is made from dried coconut meat which is then flaked either into tiny pieces or larger shavings. You can find unsweetened desiccated coconut in most supermarkets.

Fancy trying coconut for yourself? There’s plenty of coconut recipes in my book – take a look here.

Coconut is also one of my favourite beauty products!

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Foods for Recovery: Ginger

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I LOVE ginger – in face there’s several ginger recipes in the book because it is such a favourite of mine. Warming, spicy, comforting – but also a zingy addition to lots of savoury dishes, this versatile spice is actually packed with health benefits which makes it the perfect recovery food. I’ve listed a few of its many qualities below which are relevant to recovery – I’m sure they’ll surprise you!

  1. Anti-inflammatory – Handily-titled Gingerols, found in Ginger, help to reduce inflammation and therefore help with mobility and joint pain, especially in people with Osteoporosis. Brittle bones are a huge problem for anyone after an eating disorder, so calcium is often prescribed to help improve bone density and body function. With this in mind, not-so-obvious foods like Ginger may be able to really help the body to recover better.
  2. Digestive Health – Your digestive system takes a real hit going through an eating disorder – and after it has been gently eased back into ‘normal function’, residual problems can still be present which make can life pretty unpleasant and difficult. Aiding digestion is really important as it helps all your bodily functions, allowing the nutrients from the food you eat to be absorbed properly into your body. Additionally for those with anxiety and chronic IBS like me, any relief from the excruciating symptoms is much welcome. Ginger tea is said to help this and I can certainly vouch for the fact that it tastes lovely and the simple warming taste and feel of the tea does help to calm me a little. Ginger is said to ease the painful cramps and contractions caused by IBS, so it can also regulate and keep good bowel function in those who are recovering. In turn, it helps us to properly absorb the goodies from the food we eat and keeps toilet problems at bay (I’ll leave it at that!). Fresh Ginger tea (fresh Ginger brewed with hot water and Manuka honey) is said to be the best way to aid digestion using Ginger.
  3. Circulation – Many of us suffer with poor circulation even well into recovery (and after, as I’ve discovered – my circulation is irretrievably damaged). That’s why I’m passionate about recovery nutrition – if I had consumed some of these foods during recovery then perhaps I wouldn’t suffer now with the irreparable consequences of my eating disorder. On a positive note however, anyone with poor circulation can use Ginger to help improve blood flow!

Ginger Tea

You can buy Ginger tea bags at the supermarket – but here’s a simple recipe for Ginger Tea if you fancy making some for yourself and trying it at home.

  • Ginger Root
  • Manuka Honey
  • Boiling Water
  1. Peel the Ginger Root and then grate the ginger or slice and chop thinly.
  2. Add Ginger to a mug or cup and pour over the boiling water. Allow it to steep for 10 minutes maximum.
  3. Stir in the honey. You can add Cinnamon or Lemon for additional flavour if you like!

Ginger is in a wide range of delicious foods – especially Chinese and Thai food. I enjoy Ginger in cookies and cake – recipes for these can be found here in my book, Recipes for Recovery.

More Foods for Recovery here!

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Foods for Recovery: the (not so humble) Egg

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Eggs. Often overlooked as a ‘staple’ grocery – we consume 11.7 billion each year in the UK – that’s 32 million per day! Eggs are SO versatile; just have a think about all the dishes you can make using eggs! Of course, they can either be used whole, or the yolks and whites can be isolated to make a huge range of dishes. They are also light and suitable for people who are poorly or have digestive issues. Packed with protein, they really are a tiny nutritional hand grenade and a fantastic addition to any diet.

I have eggs at least once a week – I either bake them into a soufflé or quiche (you can find my quiche and soufflé recipes here in the book), I’ll often have them poached with salmon in a salad, or scrambled or devilled as a snack.

Why are they so important for recovery though?

  1. Protein – Eggs are high in protein and good fats, so they pack a fantastic nutritional punch considering how little they are! They are filling whilst being light in texture – so one little egg goes a very long way.
  2. Other nutrients – High in selenium, Iron and Vitamin D and a host of B-Vitamins, eggs are incredibly nutritious and perfect for helping your body repair and restore itself. They also help to increase good cholesterol which is really good for your heart. Eggs also contain their very own unique antioxidants which help maintain good eye health.
  3. Digestible and light – They’re a great addition to almost any diet because they are not too heavy on the digestive system. When your digestive system has been through something as harsh and debilitating as an eating disorder, it’s going to take a while for it to get back on track. And when it does, being kind to it by eating soft, easily-digested eggs which are packed with nutrients and protein can only do it good.

More Foods for Recovery here!

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Foods for Recovery: Cocoa

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Chocolate is something many of us love – of course for you, it might be at this stage something you have recently re-introduced into your diet.

Cocoa, a main ingredient in chocolate, is actually incredibly good for us, and I’ve listed it as a recovery food because it does have specific benefits for anybody whose body has taken a bit of a bashing.

Cacao (the proper name for it in its raw state!) contains Polyphenols, which have been shown to protect the heart and maintain healthy blood flow – two crucial things for anyone in recovery. Cacao also has a positive effect on mood – as it boosts two ‘feel good’ chemicals in the brain – serotonin and dopamine. You may have heard of serotonin, as some anti-depressants are known as SSRIs or ‘Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors’. Recovery can be tough (I don’t need to tell you that!), so any mood-lifters will understandably be a welcome boost. Cocoa has also been said to help with digestive complaints as it encourages the growth of good bacteria in the gut – another welcome recovery benefit.

Cocoa powder can be used in a hair mask to help hair loss – and you’ll probably already know that raw cocoa butter is great for moisturising skin and hair.

Raw, organic Cacao is the best form of cocoa to use as it is not roasted, therefore retaining the antioxidant qualities better – however I do sometimes use Bourneville or Green and Black’s.

A great, simple way to use cocoa is to mix it with almond butter and a little agave, sweet freedom, maple syrup or honey, then roll in coconut.

You can find more yummy high-cocoa recipes here in my book:

Don’t fancy making anything from scratch? Try OMbar – read my review here.

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Blueberries – A True Superfood

We hear a lot banded around nowadays about ‘Super-foods’ – another baffling inclusion to our diet. Like red wine and dark chocolate – one minute they are good for you, the next they are branded unhealthy. Remember my motto – everything in moderation!

However some foods really do have super powers and are great to feed our bodies inside out with yummy nutrients.

Blueberries are some of my favourites – I eat them with pure, thick Greek Yoghurt or in a smoothie.

So what’s the hype?

We’ve all heard of nutrients, but Blueberries contain a large range of micro-nutrients, including Vitamins C, E and K, and dietary fibre which keeps your digestive system moving along nicely. That’s not all! Blueberries also contain Phytonutrients which help protect against ageing.

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Blueberries – a true superfood

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Nutty About Nuts

Everyone knows nuts are good for us, right? But why? I hear so much confusing ‘advice’ about nuts everywhere, so here is my comprehensive guide. They really are only slightly different – yet packed full of healthy nutrients and vitamins. They’re a must in my diet – I can’t live without them! Just remember – always try to have nuts RAW where you can. They’re not so healthy after they’ve been coated with salt, monosodium glutamate and other nasties.

Almonds, Cashews, Pistachios – Contain Omega 3 Fatty Acids (hair, nails, skin), protein and fibre (which helps keep you full).

Peanuts – Full of Vitamin E and folate which is vital for brain development and foetal development in pregnant women.

Brazil Nuts – One of my personal favourites! Packed with Selenium and good fats.

My main reason for eating nuts is their nutritious qualities for skin and hair. I notice a big difference if I go without them for a few days. They’re also yummy and full of energy so I always have them handy as a snack when I’m on the go.

There really is no need to be confused about nuts. Some people avoid them as they are high in calories and fat, yet really they are similar to any other food in that in moderation, they are absolutely fine and full of added nutrients. What’s not to love?!

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