Sometimes, the hardest thing about a run is the act of putting your trainers on and leaving the house. You’re tired, it’s cold and last night’s take-away didn’t agree with you. But more than anything…View Post
Working from home takes self-discipline. Ask 10 people who work from home how they plan their days and you’ll probably get 10 different answers. Over the years I’ve found myself trying different things to make it work for me – and I think I’m finally there.
One of the things I find helpful is eating the same thing for my lunch every day. I don’t have to sit pondering trying to decide what I want to eat – I already know. It’s easy and it’s convenient. I either have a homemade lentil burger or a Quorn spicy vegan burger. They both have good sources of protein and I can stick them either in the oven or under the grill and forget about them. The other reason I like doing this is because for the 20 minutes my lunch is cooking, I can squeeze in some housework. I’m given the opportunity to put some washing away or do some tidying – and it doesn’t interfere with my work day!
Although both options are easy and pretty healthy (especially the lentil burger), I recently decided I should eat a more nutritious lunch a couple of days a week.
Enter my lunchtime stir-fry.
95g of organic white mushrooms
32g sweet baby corn
32g sugar snap peas
54g broccoli florets
30g green beans
4 cloves of garlic
42g soba noodles
½ sliced chilli pepper to garnish
10ml pure rapeseed oil
For the sauce:
24g smooth peanut butter
1tsp soy sauce
1tsp rice vinegar
1tsp agave nectar
1tbsp almond milk
Chilli flakes (quantity is down to personal preference!)
Boil a pan of water for the noodles.
Mix the ingredients for the sauce together.
Wait for the water to nearly boil and then heat up a pan for the vegetables. Once up to temperature I put in 10ml of rapeseed oil and wait for it to heat it.
Once heated, I throw the broccoli and green beans in and put the soba noodles into the pan of water (stir regularly to prevent sticking). I also set the timer on my phone for 5 minutes.
I add the baby corn and sugar snap peas, and then finally the mushrooms.
When there’s about a minute left on the timer, I add the sauce to the pan of veg and heat through for the time remaining. Make sure the pan isn’t too hot at this point, or the sauce could start to stick.
When the 5 minutes is up, drain the noodles and add them to the veg for a few seconds, stirring everything together.
Serve in a bowl and add the sliced chillies on top (The day I photographed this I got so sidetracked I forgot to add the chillies!)
507 k/cal, 55g carbohydrates, 20g protein, 22g fat, 3g saturated fat
Some days I make this after a run, other days I like to make it after I’ve had a good weights session. Either way, it’s a healthy balanced lunch that’s quick and easy to make.
When talking about protein rich food sources, most people automatically think about meat. I know I used to. Chicken, turkey and beef in particular. Whenever I heard about bodybuilders and weightlifters fuelling their bodies for their workout, there were always stories about guys who ate 6 chickens a day – doing whatever they could to make sure they were getting enough protein into their diet. That’s a lot of chicken. Eggs were always another source of food I associated with being high in protein. I can’t help but think that the chickens are getting a raw deal here.
But when you don’t eat meat, where do you get your protein from? If you’re vegetarian, then eggs and cheese are two sources that spring to mind. But what if you’re vegan? Two of the most common questions vegans get asked are where do you get your protein from and aren’t you worried you’re not getting enough protein?
Having exercised regularly since I was 16 years old and figuring out a healthy balanced diet over the last decade or so, I still never gave my protein intake much attention until earlier this year. I decided to study for a Diploma in Sports Nutrition and Exercise and it was a real eye opener to see what my body needed in order to fuel it correctly for my lifestyle. And while the protein requirements vary widely from a sedentary person to an athlete, the fact is, we all need protein.
Why is protein so important?
Quite simply, protein is responsible for the growth and repair of our tissues and cells.
If we don’t have enough protein in our diet, our muscles will struggle to strengthen and repair themselves. Protein gives us energy, helps maintain the PH balance in our blood and helps our immune system produce antibodies to fight off infection when we get ill. It helps regulate hormone function, such as insulin and it also carries other nutrients around our body. On top of all that, protein helps keep us feeling fuller for longer. So, if you’re trying to lose weight, getting more protein rich foods into your diet can help reduce any cravings you might be having. Not bad, eh?
Protein sources for vegans
Protein sources for vegans can be found in plants, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, beans and vegetables. So, with meat off the menu, which foods can provide a healthy amount of protein for those of us following a plant based diet?
I’ll start with the most obvious. Some people still associate vegans with the image of a sandal wearing, tree hugging, lentil eating hippy. And while this may be the case for some, it certainly isn’t true for all. But, there’s a reason why lentils are so popular with people following a plant based diet – it’s because they’re high in protein (not to mention cheap). They’re also versatile and can be used in different ways. When cooked, 100g of lentils can provide up to 26g of protein.
Tofu is commonly used to replace meat in a vegan diet. Although, it can be used in other ways too – specifically in smoothies and desserts. Made from soya beans, tofu can provide 12.6g of protein per 100g. I realise soya is a bit of a grey area regards its benefits – but we’ll leave that debate for another time.
It looks a bit like couscous, although I commonly refer to it a frogspawn. Like tofu, quinoa can be used in main meals and desserts. Despite it being filled with protein rich goodness, I must confess – I’m not a fan. But it’s a great source of protein and can provide 8.8g per 100g when cooked.
I love rice! Depending whether you’re using white or brown, long grain or short grain, protein intake can vary from 2g to 3.2g per 100g when cooked. Although to help retain the protein qualities, you might think about steaming it when you cook it.
Whether being used in sauces or spread on a bagel for a post-workout snack, peanut butter can provide a good source of protein any time of day. You can expect to find 29.6g per 100g or 7.1g per 24g (approx. a tablespoon sized serving)
A good source of protein that can provide up to 5g per 100g.
Hailed as a superfood over the last few years (but let’s face it, there’s a new one nearly every week), 100g of this leafy green can provide 4.3g of protein. It’s versatile too and can be used for cooking, smoothies or added to a salad.
Another superfood that provides us with a good source of protein. Just like kale, it’s very versatile and can be used in curries, as part of a salad, added to smoothies or boiled into burgers – I love spinach! You can typically find 2.9g of protein per 100g.
Small trees! Great to add to stir fry’s. You can expect to find 2.8g of protein per 100g.
Chia seeds are another versatile food that can be either sprinkled or used in a dessert – they can even be used as a replacement for egg in recipes. I like to add them to my muesli in a morning. You can find up to 17g of protein per 100g. (Typical serving size, 24g)
Seeds and nuts are a great source of protein. Almonds are popular to snack on, can be used in baking and also made into almond butter. Almonds contain 21g of protein per 100g. (Serving size approx. 30g)
Pumpkin seeds can be used as a snack throughout the day, sprinkled on foods, added to salads or used in baking. You can typically find 30g of protein per 100g. (Serving size approx. 35g)
This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but it gives you an idea of where to look for protein if you follow, or are thinking of a following, a plant based diet.
As you can see, you don’t need to eat meat to get a healthy level of protein in your diet or help with your athletic performance. Tennis players Serena and Venus Williams, ultramarathon runner Scott Jurek, former Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier and US Olympic weightlifter Kendrick Farris all lead a vegan lifestyle. Which just goes to show, if they can manage without protein from meat and dairy, there’s no reason why everyone can’t.
When I first read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, I found myself nodding along in agreement. I breathed a sigh of relief as so many things clicked into place. I saw parts of my life flashing before me and I was ecstatic that someone else actually understood the workings of my brain. For many years, I struggled with parts of my personality (I still do if I’m honest), but at least after reading Quiet, I understand myself a little more and know that it’s okay to do the things I do.
Here are 10 things I’ve finally accepted about my introverted personality.
I’m a thinker
I can happily sit in silence for hours with my own thoughts. Daydreaming about the future and pondering over questions about life, love and the universe. Think Walter Mitty, and you’re part-way there.
I like to observe
Just as I can happily sit with my own thoughts, I also enjoy silently observing. From watching the birds in my garden to enjoying a spectacular landscape, to people watching in a coffee shop. I’m happy to take in the world around me and just be.
I like to be quiet
First thing in a morning and last thing at night, I like peace and quiet. Give me a good book over T.V. any day. Sometimes I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day for my reading obsession. Some days if time allowed, I could spend all day reading with my cat curled up on my knee. Learning new things, filling my head with information and drinking endless cups of green tea while happily ignoring the outside world.
I’m a listener
If I’m with company, some people may find me rude or despondent. But I’m not: I’m a listener and a thinker. I don’t believe in making noise for the hell of it just to fill the silences. Sometimes I’m just happy listening to other people talk.
Social situations leave me feeling drained
I can feel uncomfortable in social situations that involve large groups of people, especially people I don’t know. It leaves me feeling drained and wishing I was sat at home reading, cuddling my cat and drinking endless cups of green tea.
I’m okay with silence
I’m okay with uncomfortable silences. Some people feel unnerved, feeling the need to fill the gaps with idle chit chat. But forced conversation isn’t my thing – I’m just happy to observe. And to be honest, I’ve probably not even noticed the silence because I’m too busy daydreaming and pondering over the questions to life, love and the universe.
I like solitude
Walking in nature and meandering with my camera helps feed my creativity. I can lose myself for hours wandering around National Trust gardens, following trails and photographing flowers. This is perfect alone time.
I don’t always want to talk
I frequently don’t answer the phone because 1) I don’t like using the phone, and 2) I don’t always feel like partaking in idle chit chat. The catch-up call that’s the equivalent of filling an uncomfortable silence and involves empty questions. Not my bag. If you have something specific to talk about or want my opinion on something, by all means phone me. If not, leave me be. There’s only a small number of people I can have mindless conversations with.
Writing is my therapy
I can write in my journal for hours, losing myself in the words as I pour out the contents of my head and my heart, trying to make sense of my life and the world – past, present and future.
Alone time recharges my batteries
When I say I need alone time, I mean I need to be alone. It’s not because I just don’t feel like socialising, or I can’t be bothered, it’s because my mind and body are craving down time – alone. Much like you would crave a piece of chocolate or a slice of cake, I crave space away from everyone. This is my way of recharging and bringing my energy levels back up. This is especially true after spending time with large groups of people.
Are you an introvert? What things do you do to recharge your batteries after your energy has been drained?
As I found myself typing the words into Google, I knew I shouldn’t be doing it. My whole body was screaming no – but I couldn’t help myself – I had to. I’d first read about it last year. I’d seen the images, signed the petition and shared it across social media. But if I was going to write about it, I felt like I needed to know more.
Photo credit: Google Images
I hesitated before allowing my finger to click on the link and as soon as I did, a video popped up. Made by an animal rights activist it portrayed the horror that I can’t erase from my mind. Terrified dogs running through the streets – some already injured – trying to escape the inevitable brutality that was to come. Once caught they were thrown into cages on top of each other, faces pressed against the side of the cage, penned in so tightly they were unable to move. Petrified with pure terror in their eyes – they had nowhere to go. The video skipped to a man grabbing a dog by its neck and hurtling it into a tub of boiling water – alive. The dog jumped up yelping with pain and it’s at this point I turned it off. I’d seen enough and couldn’t take anymore. My whole body was pulsating with emotion. Fear, sorrow, anger and more than anything else – helplessness. My instant reaction was that I wanted to do the same to the man who threw the dog into the boiling water – payback for every helpless dog he’d brutally murdered. I wanted him to feel the pain. I wanted him to feel what it felt like to be boiled alive and to be honest – I still do. A couple of weeks after seeing the video, I still have the vision of that dog and the sound of its yelp on repeat in my head.
The Yulin Dog Meat Festival started in 2009 and is a tradition that has caused uproar around the world. But I’m struggling to see how it can be called a tradition. A tradition is something that has been happening for hundreds of years: something that has been passed down the line from generation to generation. This tradition has no meaning, as it only started 8 years ago. In an age where more and more people are turning vegan, companies are researching ways to test their products without the use of animals and people are jailed for animal cruelty – I’m unable to comprehend such a barbaric act. We no longer live in caves, have to hunt for food or fight animals to survive, yet parts of China host a yearly festival where dogs are massacred and people stand around cheering. And while man’s best friend may be the main attraction, cats are on the menu too. Not in as high a quantity as dogs, but they are in no way spared this yearly horror.
The Chinese government say they are not directly involved with it and do not endorse the festival in any way, yet they are doing nothing to ban it. In which case, surely, they are supporting it? They’re effectively saying it’s okay for people to carry on and continue with this yearly slaughter. They defend their position further by stating it’s a local custom and only celebrated by a small amount of Yulin residents.
Apparently started as a way for dog meat traders to draw more attention to their business and bring in more customers, traders say they only use stray dogs. Yet every year household pets go missing, and some of the dogs unlucky enough to be captured can be clearly seen wearing collars. But regardless of where the dogs come from – homeless or not – it doesn’t matter. They are beautiful, intelligent, affectionate creatures who feel pain, and have emotions. Yet year upon year thousands of animals are beaten, hung and boiled alive. Some are even bound up for fun, then attached to the back of a moving vehicle and dragged along – all in the name of tradition. If any of them survive this horror, they are then skinned alive. All of this is done in front of the other dogs, causing more stress and panic as they realise their fate. And all this will be happening again in June 2017.
I realise this isn’t the usual content I cover on my blog, and I’ve questioned myself repeatedly as to whether or not I should post it – but the pull was too much and I felt I didn’t have a choice. I don’t have thousands of followers across social media, and sometimes I refrain from posting something for fear of alienating what followers I do have. I’m sure I’m not the only person who thinks like this. But to be honest, it can be pretty exhausting trying to second guess everything I write and how it might be accepted. But here’s the thing. If someone stops following me because I decided to write this post, then they’re not my target audience. As an animal lover who’s easily overwhelmed by the cruelty that exists in the world, I struggle to see why animals should needlessly suffer at the hands of humans.
I’ve never had a dog; I grew up in a house where we had cats. But the people I know who do have dogs, it’s easy to see what joy they bring. They’re loyal and affectionate, they offer companionship and a sense of security. And as for my cat, she relies on me to feed her, look after her and notice when she’s not well. She sits on my desk while I’m working, constantly wants cuddles and fussing, and curls up with me at night. Yet, on the other side of the world, these intelligent creatures are tortured while people stand round cheering and celebrating this senseless act of brutality.
As a lone woman, I realise I don’t have the power to stop this. And I realise that one blog post isn’t going to change the world. But animals don’t have a voice. They rely on the kindness of humans to speak for them, to stand up for what’s right and to try and protect them as best we can. Over on www.change.org there are currently 75 petitions which are all raising awareness and trying to bring an end to this inhumane act. As an animal lover, and as a caring human being, I am asking you with all my heart to sign one of these petitions. To spread the word and draw attention to what is about to happen again in a matter of weeks. If you have any scrap of humanity in you, you will sign, Tweet, email and share these petitions with everyone you know. Although we can’t stop it single-handedly, we can join the millions of other people who feel just as strongly about this festival and give these animals a voice.
I can’t do anything about erasing the images from the video I saw, but I can use my voice to draw attention to what is going on in the world.
To see it for yourself, and find out more information, head over to your favourite search engine and type in ‘Yulin Dog Meat Festival’. You’ll be horrified at what comes up, so please be prepared for some disturbing images.
Thank you for reading.