All Posts by vitalassurance

From Burnt Out to Breakthrough!

🙋‍♀️ Hands up if you’re feeling exhausted and burnt out? 
🙋‍♀️ Hands up if you’re counting down the days until your holiday?
🙋‍♀️ Hands up if each day just feels like a struggle?
 
I know. I used to feel this way too. 😔
 
At times, it didn’t even matter if I got 9 hours of sleep overnight. I used to wake up feeling absolutely exhausted, almost like I had never slept. 😴
 
Holidays were always amazing, but then a couple of days before it would end, I would always get that sick, anxious feeling in my stomach.
 
Why? Because I was thinking about the holiday ending and having to come home and get back into the same old routine. 
 
I had to plan the next holiday before this one finished so that I knew another break was coming up.
 
Then, when I started on my journey to improve my health and wellness, I realised that I actually could feel a lot better within myself every single day.
 
I had the energy and vibrancy I needed to get through the day without it being an absolute struggle.    

I would wake up early (without an alarm!) because my body didn’t need any more sleep.

I could enjoy my holiday the entire time and come back feeling relaxed because I knew that I could cope with my normal day to day activities.
 
Doesn’t this sound amazing? 🤩
 
And I know that you may think that it’s unbelievable, but I know that you can feel like this too. 

Watch the video below to hear my three small changes you can make this week to start feeling better.

If you liked these tips, how about booking in for a FREE 15-minute Discovery Call:
https://calendly.com/vital-assurance/discovery-call
and we can chat a little further to find out how I can help you make further changes.

Dinner In 10 Minutes Using Only 5 Ingredients!

Pasta is always the go-to meal when you are looking for something quick and easy and I completely understand why.  I mean, what could be more simple than boiling up some pasta and pouring over it a pre-made jar of pasta sauce??? 🤷‍♀️

However, with this meal comes loads of sugar, some preservatives and little nutrition. 🙁

Now, this does not mean that you have to eliminate pasta from your diet!

My video below shows you exactly how quick and easy it can be to whip up a delicious pasta dish in under 10 minutes using limited ingredients that are all nutritious. 😎

See how easy it is to make quick and healthy versions of your favourite meals?

If you liked these tips, how about booking in for a FREE 15-minute Discovery Call:
https://calendly.com/vital-assurance/discovery-call
and we can chat a little further to find out how I can help you make further changes.

Just a Banana Smoothie? No Way!

It doesn't look so pretty, but my goodness this was the best tasting smoothie I have had in forever!

A simple blend of frozen blueberries, a frozen banana, baby spinach, cinnamon and almond milk.  Simple right?

And you would probably say that there is absolutely nothing special about the ingredients at all. 

However, let me tell you, that is WRONG.

This smoothie was super special for me and let me tell you why. It would have to be over 5 years since I have eaten a banana.... crazy, right? 

I have been 'too scared' and 'too afraid' to eat them because of the higher levels of sugars in them (and they're natural sugars we are talking about) when compared to other foods, and the weight it may have caused me to put on.

This has been my life for soooo many years. Avoiding foods which have been labelled as 'bad foods' (even if they are natural, wholefoods) because of the negative effect they may have on that number on the scale which was a driver for me in so many ways.

But where does this all stem from?

To be honest, there is no simple answer. What I do know is that this intense, health journey that I have been on for the past 3 months to control and heal my auto-immune condition has opened my eyes in many ways.

I have recognised that when I first made the decision to start dieting, back when I was 16 years old (and without revealing my 'old' age, that is over 20 years ago) I lost the ability to trust my body and to read my body cues. Instead, I made decisions based on society, habits, short-term satisfaction and a lack of trust in myself around food.

In my current healing journey, where I am eating a raw, vegan diet to allow my body to repair and re-set, the deep emotional component of this journey has been the most rewarding. 

It is such an amazing feeling to be able to have more of an understanding about what food my body is asking for and actually listening to its clues and feeding it what it wants.  To be able to establish a 'healthy' relationship with food has always been a dream and it feels so good to know that I am achieving this.  

It's not about whether food is 'good' or 'bad', it's about recognising how your body is talking to you and the reasoning behind it.

I am far from planning a night out to an Italian restaurant and ordering a bowl of pasta for dinner followed by a tiramisu for dessert, but I have come a really long way in getting more in tune with my body. And for so many of us, it is something I think we have all lost along the way.

Having an auto-immune condition means that in the long-term I will always need to be mindful of the foods that I am eating and the way it affects my condition.  But, the difference is I AM now in control of these decisions rather than being dictated by society, a number on the scale or a list of "good" or "bad" foods.

Pantry Essentials

We all have days when we are lacking that inspiration in regard to what meals you are going to prepare, and you just don't know where to start!

That is why having these six pantry essentials in your house is so important. Last-minute dinner ideas and thrown-together snacks for unexpected guests can come together easily when you have simple, foundational ingredients on hand. The below six are my favourites, and I use them ALL the time!

Lemons
A lemon can add flavour to almost any dish! Fresh lemon juice is fantastic for flavouring chicken or fish, while some lemon zest can add depth to marinades, salads or grains. Lemon is a source of vitamin C, which can help boost your immune system too!

Canned Items
Canned items such as tuna, tomatoes, beans and chickpeas, are easy ways to add protein, make sauces and add flavour to a dish.

Vegetable / Chicken / Beef stock
Keep portions of frozen stock, or purchase organic cartons of chicken, vegetable, and beef stock. These can be used as bases for soups, stews and curries or even simply to add subtle flavour to quinoa or rice. With the veggies and protein you have in your fridge, you can throw together a meal in no time.

Quinoa
Quinoa can be used for so many different snacks and meals. Add it to salads, use it instead of rice or pasta, make them into burger patties or make some quinoa porridge, especially in this colder weather.
As well as being super versatile, quinoa is also packed with goodness. It is gluten-free and has a great amount of protein, carbohydrates and fibre.

Oil + Vinegar
The perfect combination not only for salad dressings but also to add some tang to your meals. Be cautious though, as oils aren't always as they seem and you need to be careful with the oils you use for cooking, especially when using a high temperature. I like to use olive oil for low temp cooking and salad dressings, coconut oil for higher temp cooking and avocado oil for salad dressings.

Spices
Having a range of different spices on hand can add so much flavour to your dish without the added sugars of many store-bought sauces. By simply changing up the spices that you use, you can create a completely different dish. For example - combining cumin, cinnamon, coriander and salt is more middle eastern inspired, whereas, smoked paprika, chilli powder, garlic powder, cumin, onion powder and salt is more Mexican based. Generally, if your spices are stored well in an air-tight container they have a shelf life of up to 1 year.

With these key ingredients, you will have no trouble putting together a quick, delicious and nutritious meal even on those days when you 'can't be bothered'!

How to Stop Night-Time Cravings

How often do we say to ourselves, “I’ve been so good all day” and then night-time comes and all that hard work goes out the window? Then the next day you start the cycle again, you are ‘good’ during the day and then night-time comes and you can’t stop eating, even after having a really big meal.

This pattern tends to be known as the sumo-wrestler diet because if you eat late at night (and just before bed), your body will store all those extra calories as fat instead of processing them and burning them.

In order to be able to put a stop to this pattern we need to understand WHY this is happening. WHY are we craving more food, more junk food or really just anything unhealthy? More often than not, the root cause of this problem is an imbalance in our appetite regulating hormones. These hormones each have their own triggers and therefore if we can understand how to balance them, then the cravings for sweet, junk food late at night will be eliminated.

The four main hormones are:

  • Insulin – the main hormone our body produces to regulate blood sugar. When your insulin spikes then crashes after eating sugar and flour or junk, it makes you hungrier.
  • Leptin – this is the hormone that tells our brains when we are full and to STOP eating. When you eat a lot of processed foods, sugar and refined flour, Leptin does not work as well.
  • Grehlin – this is the hormone that tells us when we ARE hungry.
  • Peptide YY – this is a hormone in our intestine that tells us when we are FULL.

We do also need to consider the hormone, Cortisol, which is our stress hormone. When you are stressed, your Cortisol level goes up, and when that happens, you get hungrier and your blood sugar and insulin levels rise.

Being able to balance these hormones and keep them in check will enable you to reduce those cravings and the night-time snacking that comes with it.

Here are 6 simple steps you can follow to take control of your cravings:

1. Eat breakfast – eating a protein rich breakfast is the KEY to stop your night-time cravings. Now, you may wake up in the mornings full from the late night snacking so it’s important that you break that cycle. This helps to keep your blood sugar levels balanced all day.
2. Don’t drink your calories – consuming high sugar drinks (soft drinks, juices, flavoured milks, energy drinks) spikes your insulin levels and increases your cravings for more sugary foods.
3. Eat regularly – eating your breakfast, lunch and dinner at regular times allows your hormones to remain balanced.
4. Have good quality protein and sources of fat with each meal – these foods are known to satisfy you and keep your blood sugar levels balanced.
5. Take some time out – stress increases our cravings, which results in us overeating and putting on weight. Learning to reduce your stress will help you manage your weight.
6. Prioritise sleep – depriving yourself of sleep drives the hunger hormone, Ghrelin, up and the full hormone, Peptide, down therefore you will end up eating more sugary foods to give you the energy you are lacking.

So remember that in order to put night-time binging behind you, you have to take the steps to stop the cycle and to create different pathways within your body in order for you to be able to keep that blood sugar level in check!

Is there anything better than crust?

Saturday mornings always used to be the favourite part of my week and they have formed some of my fondest memories. Combining my favourite meal of the day together with being a big foodie led Matt, the boys and I to driving around the suburbs of Melbourne trying new cafes for our Saturday breakfast. This used to be our ritual for many years.

Sure, there were always the favourites we would go back to, however, travelling 30 minutes to try somewhere different was always a highlight.  The boys would bring their games or loom bands with them to keep them occupied whilst Matt and I were able to spend a few moments reading the paper and enjoying our coffee in peace.

The standard order for the boys was a serve of multigrain toast with peanut butter.  Whilst it may be a 'boring' meal, the best part about this was that they both hated eating the crusts and that was my absolute FAVOURITE.  I mean, how could they not??? It's the best part of fresh bakery bread..... right!!!!

Therefore, I would snack on the crusts whilst waiting patiently for whatever egg, salmon, avocado, spinach, mushroom, tomato, etc, etc, etc dish I ordered which would give me some more toast to enjoy.  I was in my element.

BUT then as I discovered more about nutrition and the impact foods were having on my body, these indulgent Saturday mornings came to an end.  I swapped my crusty toast for chocolatey smoothies and chia puddings, which is definitely not something to be upset about.... chocolate in the morning, who wouldn't want that, especially when it's guilt-free??? However, there were definitely times when the crunch of that toast was going to be sorely missed.

With my love for cooking and constant inspiration to find healthy, alternative swaps to the foods that I love, I spend a lot of time flipping through recipe books and trialing new foods. After all, changing the way that you to eat to encourage health doesn't mean that you have to deprive yourself of the things that you love.  You can imagine how excited I was when I came across Teressa Cutter's Pumpkin Paleo Bread (recipe below).  I could get my 'toast' fix whilst feeding my body with nutrients that were going to support my health.  

So, for all you toast lovers out there, I just had to share the recipe with you.

Ingredients:

450g pumpkin (winter sqaush), peeled and grated
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt
pinch nutmeg
1/4 cup olive oil
300g almond meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
handful pumpkin seeds

Method:
Preheat oven to 160 degrees.
Line a loaf tin with parchment paper.
Place your grated pumpkin, eggs, salt, nutmeg and olive oil in a bowl and combine well.
Add your almond meal and baking paper and mix so that it is all combined.
Spoon the mixture into your prepared loaf tin.
Sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours until golden brown on top.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 1 hour before removing.

Toast or grill and serve with your favourite toppings.

Makes 12 slices

Settling Your Sweet Cravings, the Healthy Way!

I always find it amazing that it doesn't matter how full you are after a meal, there is always room to fit in dessert.  It's that little pocket in your stomach known as the 'sweet compartment', and it seems to be completely separate from the rest of your stomach.  But, when you're trying to eat healthily and be more mindful about what you are eating, it can be hard settling this craving in a healthy way.  Let's be honest, most foods that taste amazing and settle those cravings are full of refined and highly processed sugars that completely unravel all that hard work..... however, that does not have to be the case! I'm going to show you how simple it can be to settle those sweet cravings with delicious alternatives leaving you feeling satisfied and completely guilt-free.

1. Eat naturally sweet foods - when you find that sugar craving hits, instead of scrounging around for chocolate biscuits which are full of ingredients that are not supporting your health, try to find nutritious options that contain natural sugar such as fruit.  Heading into the warmer months, berries, cherries, mangoes, pineapple and watermelon, just to name a few, are fantastic options.

Being creative with how you use your fruit is always a great way to create healthy sweet options, and here are some example for you to draw inspiration from:


  • Adding fruit to plain Greek yoghurt with some shredded coconut and a sprinkle of cinnamon;
  • Using frozen fruits to create a smoothie which can either be had as a drink or can be frozen into icy pole molds; or
  • Try my children's favourite: Choc-Peanut Nice-cream:

Ingredients:

1 frozen banana, chopped
1 tablespoon cacao nibs
1-2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
Splash coconut water

Method:
Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend for 30 secs at a time on a medium speed until you get your desired, creamy consistency.  Use a spatula in between blending to ensure everything mixes well.  You may need to add some extra coconut water during the blending if you find the mixture is too dry.

2. Have healthy dessert options on hand - there are going to be those times when fruit just isn't going to cut it, and trust me when I say this, eating healthy doesn't mean depriving yourself.  It's all about finding the right balance and having treats on hand that have been made with natural sweeteners such as raw honey and maple syrup. These will not only settle that sweet craving, but it will also provide you with nutrients... bonus!!!
 
For some healthy swaps, consider making an avocado chocolate mousse, chocolate truffle balls or give this seeded brittle a go:

Ingredients:

 ¾ cup pumpkin seeds
 ¾ cup sunflower seeds
 ½ cup flaked coconut
 2 tablespoons chia seeds
 ¼ cup mulberries
 2 tablespoons coconut oil
 1/3 cup maple syrup
 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line a tray with baking paper.
Combine all the seeds, flaked coconut and mulberries in a bowl.
On a medium heat, melt the coconut oil and maple syrup so that it is mixed well.  Once melted whisk in your vanilla extract.
Pour the melted liquid over the dry ingredients and mix quickly so that it is well combined.  Spread the mixture onto the prepared tray and using a spatula flatten so that it is about 1cm thick.
Place the brittle in the oven for 20 minutes until it becomes a golden colour.  Remove the brittle from the oven and allow to cool slightly.  Place the brittle in the freezer for 30 minutes and then break it up.
Stores well in a glass container in the freezer.

3.  Don't deny yourself of chocolate, just swap your sugar-laden milk chocolate for an anti-oxidant rich dark chocolate.  You do need to be careful though as there are many 'healthier' chocolate options out there that have a lot of added sugar disguised as a different name.  If you are game, you could always make your own...

Ingredients:

  ½ cup coconut flakes (alternatively use crushed mixed nuts)
  ½ cup coconut oil
  ½ cup raw cacao powder
  2 tablespoons Maple Syrup
 
Method:
Prepare a tray with baking paper.
Lightly toast the coconut by dry frying them on a medium heat in a pan on the stove.  It will take 3-4 minutes.  Set aside
Melt the coconut oil in a pot on low heat.  Once it is melted, remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the rice malt syrup and cacao.
Add the toasted coconut flakes and spread the mixture on the lined tray.
Place in the freezer for 30-60 minutes.

So, there you have it. Settling those sweet cravings with delicious, nutritious alternatives may not be that difficult after all.

I hope you have found some inspiration from this blog and can now enjoy your dessert completely guilt-free.

In good health,
Keren xX

Spring Clean Your Health

The flowers are starting to bloom, the mornings aren’t so dark, and the evenings are longer and lighter…. Warmer weather has finally arrived and it’s time to get that SPRING back into your step.

We all know the saying “it’s time to do a spring clean” and this is usually associated with cleaning and de-cluttering our houses, but why don’t you think outside the box and include your heath and wellness in your spring clean??

Surely there are habits that we have developed over the colder, darker months that need to be kicked to the curb. Its time to stop feeling sluggish and lethargic and get those energy levels back.

Here are 3 simple tips on how you can start spring-cleaning your body.

1. Eat seasonal produce – fruits and vegetables taste there best when they are eaten during the times that they should be harvested. Our bodies crave different foods at different times of the year depending on their water content and their ability to heat or cool our bodies.
Vegetables in season – avocado, artichokes, cauliflower, celery, asparagus, spinach, radishes, purples sprouting broccoli, rocket, salad leaves, peas, leeks, spring onions, spring cabbage,
Fruit in season – banana, grapefruit, blood oranges, honeydew, rhubarb, mandarin, mango and apricots.

2. Get moving – during the winter months many of us turn to hibernation and lose the enthusiasm and motivation to exercise. There is no doubt that exercise helps us with cardiovascular fitness and losing weight, but it has so many additional benefits too. With the weather starting to warm up, there is no better time than now to get back into that rhythm and even take your exercise outdoors. Meet a friend for a walk, join an outdoor boot camp or even enjoy a game of tennis with your kids. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are moving.

3. Clear out your mind – the strain we put on our bodies by being stressed is significantly understated. It affects the way we eat and sleep, our ability to concentrate and our mood. Adopting stress management strategies into your daily routine is a fantastic way to start removing all that ‘junk’ that is clogging up our minds. Now this doesn’t mean that you have to start meditating for 1 hour a day, it can be by introducing simple techniques such as doing 5 minutes of deep breathing on the way to or from work, carrying a little journal with you so that you can write down what you are feeling during a moment of stress or even something as simple as remembering to smile and planting seeds of positivity.

The Power of One

Generally speaking once we have made a decision to do something, whether to start exercising or change the way we eat, we adopt the “all or nothing” mentality. We go from sitting on the couch eating take out almost every night to exercising 4-5 times per week and restricting what we eat to only 1200 calories a day. Wow, what an extreme change! No wonder it is not sustainable for long periods of time. This is where the Power of One will become your saviour.

I went to a conference not long ago and was listening to the head of Small Business from St George Bank speaking. He introduced me to the concept of the Power of One through his speech, and although he was talking about it in financial and business terms, I immediately thought, “This is going to be a brilliant concept to use in my coaching”.

The best thing someone can do for themselves is make the decision that they need to focus on their health and well-being and make the necessary changes. However, this can be extremely overwhelming for many, especially when there are potentially so many things that need to change. The four most common questions from someone just starting out usually are:

"Where do I begin?"
"What do I need to change?"
"What is most important?"
"How am I going to do it all?"

My recommendation is to pick ONE, that’s right, only one behaviour that you want to change and focus on that. It may be something as small as only having one teaspoon of sugar in your coffee instead of two, it may be having breakfast a couple of days a week instead of skipping breakfast, it may even be just saying no to an after dinner snack. Start with the one thing you are most motivated to change and do this consistently. You will feel very satisfied by changing this behaviour and it will give you confidence to build on the one change into other changes you can make and become the person you can become.

Even though you may think that these changes are small and insignificant, they are actually big steps, because they are those few times that you are changing the behaviour you have recognised needs change. This creates a domino effect, giving you the power to spark a chain reaction of changed habits that builds new behaviours upon changed behaviours that will naturally lead to the next successful changed behaviour. This is something that you need to recognise as a step in the right direction, a step in the direction of reaching you goal.

So the next time you are overwhelmed with all the changes you want to make in your life, take a moment to reflect, break it down and focus on ONE thing that you can change. This is the way that you will make permanent, life-long changes. This is the “Power of ONE!”

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Let’s not underestimate the effect a lack of sleep has on us. Apart from feeling exhausted, lacking energy, being moody, having low tolerance and having difficulty concentrating, you probably notice that on the days that you are feeling like this, your cravings for sugar and carbs are almost uncontrollable. You will eat just about anything to give you that spike in sugar and energy you are so depleted of.

The research is clear: Lack of sleep, or poor sleep, stops your metabolism working efficiently. When this happens your cravings increase, which makes you eat more, increasing your weight and risk of developing chronic diseases. Getting enough sleep, and sleeping well, are essential for our health!

The optimal amount of sleep for an adult is between 7-9 hours each night. Now I know the first thing that will come to mind for a majority of you is the thought: I am a mum (or dad) with young children so how am I supposed to do that??? Let’s not forget that I am a mum of 2 young boys (10 and 8) too and I am very lucky that they do not disturb me during the night. However, there is plenty that needs to be done for them at the start and end of the day, which means that I definitely don’t have the luxury of staying in bed until mid-morning. But the one thing I make sure that I do religiously, in order for me to be able to function and do everything that needs to be done, is that I endeavour to climb into bed each night between 9:30 and 9:45 with the aim to have the lights off at 10:00/10:15.

There are many ways that we can assist our bodies in achieving our optimal sleep so I thought I would share some of those tips with you. Please keep in mind that you will have to be patient, because an improvement in your sleep pattern will not happen overnight, it may take a few weeks or months, but these strategies will eventually shift your sleep patterns.

1. Go to bed and wake up at the same time to create regular rhythms of sleep.

2. Create total darkness and quiet in the bedroom.

3. Avoid caffeine – although you feel as though you need this to keep you awake during the day, this may end up making your sleep worse at night.

4. Avoid alcohol – it helps you get to sleep but causes interruptions in your sleep and therefore leads to poor-quality sleep.

5. Do not eat within 2-3 hours of going to bed – going to bed on a full stomach can lead to poor-quality sleep.

6. Don’t exercise vigorously after dinner – this tends to excite the body and makes it more difficult for you to get to sleep.

7. Turn off IT technology 1 hour before bed – being stimulated right up until we go to sleep makes it difficult for our brains to switch off and therefore get a restful nights sleep.

8. Take a hot salt / aromatherapy bath – raising your body temperature before bed helps to induce sleep.

9. Stretch before bed as this helps to relax our bodies and makes it easier for us to fall asleep.

10. Practice relaxation breathing or meditation before sleep - this helps to relax the brain, allowing you to fall asleep more easily and have a restful sleep.

11. Before going to bed write down the things that are causing you anxiety and make plans for what you need to do the next day to reduce your worry. This will free up your mind, allowing you to have a deeper and more restful sleep.

12. Get 20 minutes of exposure to sunlight during the day – the light from the sun triggers your brain to release specific chemicals and hormones such as melatonin that are vital to healthy sleep, mood and ageing.

Remember, the key is to get both enough sleep as well as good quality sleep every night. Everything else will fall into place as a result. Your mood will improve, your energy will improve, your ability to concentrate will improve, but your sugar and carb cravings will reduce! You will feel more level throughout the day and you will find it much easier to cope with your work and family.

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