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Green+Aquamarine: March 2016

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Om Yoga Magazine: Yoga Travel

Top picks for yoga retreats in 2016. Via @eleanormayc

So you've upped you're weekly yoga class to two or three and a home practice. Your legging collection has growing somewhat exponentially and so it seems the next step is to go on a yoga retreat. This month's special feature in Om Yoga magazine is all about yoga holidays. A yoga retreat is definitely up there on my list (if perhaps not my student budget!) and so I thought I would share my  personal favourites.

Top picks for yoga retreats in 2016. Via @eleanormayc

For pure luxury ~ Breath of Life Sanctuary £1400-£2500 for 7-14 days respectively.
Based in Rekawa, Sri Lanka, the Breath of Life Sanctuary offers tailored packages with variable yoga styles, with an emphasis on Kundalini. There is also the option for ayurvedic consultation, wildlife trips, excursions to local temples and opportunities to try different activities like cooking lessons

For active escapes ~ Freespirit Holidays from £500 per week.
To mix up yoga with surf and SUP, head to Sagres in Portugal. With the option of morning pranayama and meditation or family yoga alongside the Anurasana yoga offered

Top picks for yoga retreats in 2016. Via @eleanormayc

For mini breaks ~ Lime House Yoga Studio, from £325
Taught by Helen Clare in the gorgeous Cornwall studio, a blend of energising Vinyasa and calming restorative. There is also plenty of time for a surf or simply to enjoy the local beaches.

Top picks for yoga retreats in 2016. Via @eleanormayc

For beach holidaying ~ Lotus Retreat, €735 for a week
Wake up to Vinyasa beach classes on Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands, whilst enjoying pilates and a full body massage over the course of the week. This holiday will leave you with lots of time for activities, such as exploring the island, going surfing, horse riding or cycling.

Disclaimer: I am an Affiliated Blogger with Om Yoga Magazine. Each issue I will write a post on an article from the magazine and share it with you. Have a look here to find about the other lovely affiliated bloggers. All photos in this post taken from the Om Yoga magazine. 

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Saturday, 26 March 2016

Orange Cashew Cream Biscuits

With the bank holiday weekend now here  the call of sweet treats and hearty meals is a strong one. There's lots of options for dark, raw and vegan cacao Easter eggs and healthier swaps for lunch, so I fancied trying my hand at some of the afternoon snacks that can be so tempting! I had a bit of difficulty trying to name these sweet treats... cheesecake bites, fudge biscuits... they fit somewhere between them.

Honey gives a really lovely flavour, but to let the taste of the orange zest take centre stage, I used Natvia* for a touch of sweetness. Low GI and derived from stevia, using this keeps these biscuits even more innocent. If you don't have any to hand, use honey or date syrup instead.

For the base

  • 1 cup dates
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
For the orange cashew cream

  • 200g cashew butter (about one pot of Meridian cashew butter!!)
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tbsp Natvia sweetener*
  • Zest of 1/2 orange

Soak the dates in hot water for ten minutes or so to soften them. Drain and blend the dates, cashews and desiccated coconut into a fine consistency. Add a little coconut oil if using a less powerful blender to help the mix to stick. Press a tablespoon of the mix into a silicon cupcake case or cupcake cases. 

Next, blend together the cashew butter, coconut oil, honey and orange zest together before adding a teaspoon of the creamy mix over the the biscuit base. Leave to set in the fridge or freezer. Serve with a little sea salt or extra zest for that mid afternoon pick me up.

*Donotes PR sample. All thoughts and opinions are my own, and I will only positively feature or recommend products that I would use myself.

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Monday, 21 March 2016

Nutritionalists: the Good, the Bad and Everything in Between

When I first started getting interested in healthy eating, lots of bloggers were advertising themselves as nutritionalists. As someone who had seriously considered taking a degree to become a registered dietician, seeing these nice shiny qualifications was reassuring. The bloggers clearly knew what they were talking about with their official-sounding title, and I had lots if role models to aspire to. Since then, there has been a quiet backlash in the more scientific community against so-called nutritionalist. The problem is, the term nutritionalist doesn't actually mean anything. Whilst becoming a dietician requires at least a three year undergraduate course accredited by a body such as the British Dietetic Association, health coach/nutritionalist courses can be undertaken in six months or even less. Both the Guardian and Women's Health have shared articles about the unclear waters between dieticians, nutritionalists and health coaches, and as someone interested in both holistic health and proper scientific accreditation, I thought I would share my thoughts on the subject.

Of course, that isn't to say that becoming a health coach is misleading -many bodies such as the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) are extremely popular and can equip professionals with the tools to become better able to help their clients. The problem is is that these holistically-focused courses can miss out key areas of study, such as biochemistry and physiology and typically do not hold scientific accreditation. I have noticed that a few IIN graduates have relabelled themselves as health coaches rather than nutritionalists, and I respect them for making that distinction. Health coaches have packed in a year of hard study, but I think it is important for there to be a clearer distinction. On the flip side, others are making it clear that they do not see themselves as nutritionalists, but rather chefs and food writers. Blogger and "wellness rebel", Plant Based Pixie is bucking the trend by undertaking a Masters in Nutrition and isn't afraid to call out popular health trends and diets.

When you have health professionals and bloggers offering dietary advice, you need to feel confident in their knowledge, and this can be a tricky line to toe. I strongly believe that good diet, movement, sleep and stress management go a long way towards improving health, and this isn't something that will necessarily get prescribed at your GP. Health coaches and holistic nutritionalists are definitely helping to fill this gap, but again, when it comes to diet the area becomes much more grey. A classical example is gluten. It's currently the big bad boy of the food world, right next to sugar. If you are intolerant to gluten, or have a sensitivity to it (which can be temporary, particularly if you have been on a course of antibiotics) then of course, reducing or cutting it out is going to make you feel better. But if you can digest it, then why ditch a nourishing food source? Everyone is a unique individual, and so are affected differently by foods. But when you find yourself looking at a gluten free option that is twice the price of your everyday item, and with added sugars and ingredients to make up for the gluten, you do have to wonder if it's worthwhile if you don't have an intolerance. Last year I asked if bread really was the enemy, looking at all the factors that could be causing you bloating after a slice of toast -you can read it here.

Then we come on to the subject of experience. Previous work in kitchens, or perhaps some watertight reviews can give professionals an edge, even if they haven't completed their studies. Before training at the IIN, Madeleine Shaw worked in health food kitchens in Australia, and has a fair bit of experience working in professional kitchen. She is also continuing her studies in nutrition, albeit at a holistic naturopathic school rather than a university. Personally, I would like to see more courses than aim to bridge the science of dieticians with the holistic approach of naturopathy. Up and coming health food brand Primrose's Kitchen is based on naturopathic principles and has a very tempting range of products.

When it comes down to it, you need to make the decision for yourself about who's opinion you value, and whose you might not. Whether you are looking for a nutritionalist for a private consultation, or are surfing the health blogs, don't be afraid to research the diets and foods that they recommend to gather your own opinion, or to ask questions. Different needs require different expertise and in taking the initiative to delve deeper, you can improve your own understanding, and build better communication with each other... be you talking to a blogger, nutritionalist, health coach or dietician.


Thursday, 17 March 2016

Fitness Playlist: Pump It!

Workout playlist for weights, circuit training and HIIT. Get sweating! Via @eleanormayc

Doing a lot of work at home over the last few weeks has had me listening to Spotify more than usual, and as a result I have been refining my playlists -about time too, as I get bored easily! My workout tunes have moved away from pace-setting pop to slightly heavier stuff... appropriate for when it comes to mastering pull ups, squaring up to the punch bags and smashing out the last few reps in a HIIT session. I totally blame Carly and Fab and their music for this. ;) I've added some songs to help you warm up before you go out guns blazing to get you in the zone. For more insight on how I balance different aspects of fitness and yoga, have a look at my post here. Appropriately, the newest playlist has been named Pump It. I have two days of university left before Easter involving deadlines, society talks and lab sessions, so I feel like this playlist may be featuring more often...

Like what you're hearing? Check out my calming yoga playlist for completely different vibes, and let me know if you like these playlist posts!

Photo: I am Vibes


Monday, 14 March 2016

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

It's another Monday arriving again, but as the four day Easter weekend rolls ever closer, I find myself not minding. That, or the fact that weekends don't exist in quite the same way when you're in assignment season at university. I have been flirting with the idea of having more savoury breakfasts, although my heart still firmly lays with meals of the sweeter persuasion first thing. This kale and squash quinoa bowl is a good choice for such moods as grain bowl is reminiscent of porridge, and, with a bit of evening prep, is nice and simple to put together for a weekday early start as it is for Saturday brunch. The lemon brings all the ingredients together without being too heavy. Plus, with only three main ingredients and condiments, my breakfast bowl won't overwhelm your palette (or washing up load!). The measurements here are approximate, and depending on what size butternut squash you buy, you may find this serves closer to three than two people. If so, pop any leftovers in a Tupperware for a satisfying lunch later on. You can also swap the quinoa for bulgar wheat, which is less expensive, buttery tasting and still a good source of protein.

Kale, squash and quinoa savoury breakfast bowl. Via @eleanormayc


  • 1 butternut squash
  • Olive oil
  • 100g dried quinoa (should produce 2 cup)
  • Vegetable stock
  • Cayenne pepper or chilli power
  • Mixed dried herbs, or fresh thyme
  • Two handfuls of kale, coarse stems removed
  • Coconut oil
I strongly suggest cooking the butternut squash and quinoa the night before!
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Peel, remove the seeds and chop the butternut squash into bitesized cubes. Tip into a roasting tin, and drizzle with olive oil and herbs before roasting in the oven for 40 minutes, checking occasionally. 

Kale, squash and quinoa savoury breakfast bowl. Via @eleanormayc

Next, rinse and cook the quinoa in two parts water for every one part quinoa. Add a stock cube, or teaspoon of stock powder and a pinch of pepper or chilli. Cook in a lidded pan for twenty minutes, or according to packet instructions.

Kale, squash and quinoa savoury breakfast bowl. Via @eleanormayc

In a frying pan, saute the kale in a tablespoon of coconut oil over a medium heat until wilted. Add the butternut squash and quinoa  and stir. Add the juice of half a lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. When everything is heated through, divide between bowls, and enjoy. If you'd like, you could also add goat's cheese or sliced (or shaved if you're feeling fancy) avocado.

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Friday, 11 March 2016

Inspiration: Megan Wyllie

I really love discovering new people, amazing stories and real life inspiration. It's one of the best things about blogging, especially when you get to connect with some of these people. Today's inspirational lady is a course fellow of mine, and so in many respects seeing her journey has been even more impressive. I spoke to Megan, who has lost a seriously impressive 45 pounds in a year by cutting out sugar and making healthier lifestyle choices. As well as losing weight, Megan has gained confidence and was positively sparkling when I sat down over tea to have a chat.

Inspiration: how Megan lost weight at university by going sugar free. Via @eleanormayc

For many students, starting university is associated with gaining the "Freshers' 15", and for Megan the move was particularly difficult as she caved in to chocolates and cookies that had been previously unavailable in a vegan household. Alcohol too, provided an extra source of calories, both in the drinks themselves, and the food choices the morning after. At her heaviest weight, 218 pounds, Megan was heavier than her dad. Coupled with some unflattering birthday photos, Megan took her life into her own hands and made some serious changes

Going Sugar Free
Rather than following diets or counting calories, Megan made the decision to cut out sugar, admitting that the first month was really difficult. Initially, the food swaps weren't especially healthy, but they provided Megan with a doable way of weaning herself off sugar. Within a few weeks, results were showing, with Megan's tastebuds being overwhelmed by the sweetness of a slice of birthday cake. The cake was left unfinished. Over time, ready meals were largely ditched and Megan now ensures that her fridge is always stocked with salad ingredients and fresh soup. Her favourite go-to meal is a salad with halloumi, butternut squash, spinach and tomatoes. Although Megan tends to avoid snacking, she loves sweet potato fries or apple sliced dipped in softened peanut butter, and drinks lots of fruit tea throughout the day to keep her full and hydrated. Breakfast is probably the sweetest meal of the day, but still healthy thanks to homemade smoothies.

Inspiration: how Megan lost weight at university by going sugar free. Via @eleanormayc

Inspiration: how Megan lost weight at university by going sugar free. Via @eleanormayc

Staying on Track
To keep herself inspired, Megan finds YouTube videos of healthy recipes, and relies on the first Deliciously Ella book, and the Body Coach's Lean in 15 guide for when making meals. She also checks un with vegan YouTuber Kiera Rose who's video's promote body positivity and wellbeing. Megan's boyfriend has also joined her on eating healthily, with cooking together keeping them accountable to (and enjoying!) healthy meals.

Getting Fit
Although Megan's journey has largely been focused on the kitchen, she has also been getting fit. After experimenting in the weight's section, Megan took up running to help burn extra calories and will be very shortly participating in the Cardiff half marathon like a total #GirlBoss.

To round it off, Megan has kindly shared her top tips to getting healthy, especially for those at uni:

  1. Look for healthier alternatives to everything -it's the little switches that count
  2. Keep an eye on alcohol consumption, as the calories add up
  3. Get fit, even if you just start walking. 
  4. Water. Lots of it.
  5. Avoid swapping one unhealthy thing for another (just because cream is sugar free, doesn't make it healthy!)
Thanks so much for speaking to me Megan. Have you struggled with weight, or found a new lease of fitness at university? Comment below and get the conversation started!

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Monday, 7 March 2016

Fitness Update: Balancing Workouts, Weights and Yoga

Hello! I thought I would do a fitness update you all. When I first started going to the gym I managed to avoid the trap of slogging it out on the treadmill and headed to the weight section, deadlifts and all. However, I probably didn't get enough coaching to protect my form. Last autumn, I started to up my weights game, splitting my upper body days into different sections, saving my cardio for the odd gym class or run. However, after starting my #100daysofyoga challenge, I realised that my increased gym time was conflicting with my yoga practice -both in terms of actual time, and in how I felt in my body and flexibility. I also found that leg day and I weren't getting on -I'm naturally pear shaped anyway, so want to get my upper body to balance out my lower half, plus my strongly arched back (I have an over-emphasised lumbar lordosis) is prone to strains from deadlifts and lunges. That being said, the last thing I wanted was to become a cardio bunny -I like feeling strong!

Fitness: how I balance yoga with weights and cardio for a balanced approach to health. Via @eleanormayc

Fitness: how I balance yoga with weights and cardio for a balanced approach to health. Via @eleanormayc

I was quite inspired by the online fitness community -Kayla is obviously a very famous example of this, and over summer I signed up to the 12 week Way of Grey program. Inspired by these and a few other trainers on Instagram, I decided to shake up my routine to hopefully achieve a better balance to my fitness.

Fitness: how I balance yoga with weights and cardio for a balanced approach to health. Via @eleanormayc

Health and fitness is, of course, a journey and not a destination and I will continue to make changes, some of which I'll mention at the end of this post. My key aim was to make my gym time more effective, without risking injury. I have started to increase the amount of HIIT and interval training that I do, supplementing with boxing, spin and pole classes.

Fitness: how I balance yoga with weights and cardio for a balanced approach to health. Via @eleanormayc

Fitness: how I balance yoga with weights and cardio for a balanced approach to health. Via @eleanormayc

Because core and upper body strength are things that I still want to build (hello forearm and handstands!), I am still doing a fair bit of arm training, and have upped my ab work into full sessions rather than a quick ten minutes after another workout. As my ab days are shorter than legs and arms, I like to pair them with a quick interval training session for a full body burn! I have refocused my leg days to train use bodyweight and plyometrics whilst still using some weighted exercises. This has given me more time for my yoga practice, which has been lovely!

Fitness: how I balance yoga with weights and cardio for a balanced approach to health. Via @eleanormayc

I have been surprised to have started to noticed some results in my stomach, my yoga has improved and I still feel strong. I know I'll never be the fastest runner, the strongest lifter or the bendiest yogi, but I'm really happy with the balance I have building. I feel my healthiest yet, and in a maintainable, enjoyable way. And ultimately, that is the most important thing -because it doesn't matter what kind of exercise you do to be healthy. Whatever makes you feel good is your brand of healthy, and that's perfect.

Would you like to hear more about my fitness routines? Comment below if you'd like to see more regular features, workouts and updates!

Jumper - Zara, Top - H&M, 7/8 Tights - Sweaty Betty, Shoes - Nike

Thanks to Miriam of  The English Mademoiselle Diaries for the photographs!

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Thursday, 3 March 2016

Healthy Hacks: Zoats (and other hidden vegetables)

With recent recommendations increasing our ideal daily vegetable intake from three to as much as seven portions. This can seem like a fairly steep task, but boosting your abundance of daily veggies really is doable. In The Microbiome Solution, Dr. Chutkan recommends the 1-2-3 rule: one portion of vegetables at breakfast, two at lunch and three for dinner. Between-meal snacks can also help to fill in any missed portions, or further increase your intake of vegetables to the desired seven portions and beyond. Whilst the most obvious ways of eating vegetables in the AM are savoury dishes and smoothies, something more sweet or comforting can be more desirable. My favourite health hack? Adding vegetables to porridge. If you're familiar to busy breakfast bowls, or have tried my baked carrot cake porridge, this concept will probably be one you have come across before. If not; fear not! I promise your breakfasts won't taste like you've tried to turn your porridge oats into a salad!

Cheap and easy ways to add vegetables to your diet, with a courgette porridge recipe. Via @eleanormayc

To get you started, here is my rough guide to making delicious courgette (zucchini) porridge, or "zoats". My newest discovery is adding cacao powder or chocolate-flavoured coconut milk for a rich, creamy bowl of zoats. It brings the breakfast or post workout bowl into a complete other level of indulgence, without actually adding much naughtiness. How much liquid you need depends on the type of oats that you use -jumbo or steel cut oats absorb up to twice the amount of liquid (but really do taste better for it) whereas rolled oats require less.

  • 3 tbsp oats
  • Half a courgette, grated
  • 150-250ml nut milk or water (I use roughly half and half)
  • To sweeten: 1 banana, chopped or mashed; 1 scoop of vanilla protein; maple syrup
  • Optional: 1 tsbp cacao or cocoa powder

Cheap and easy ways to add vegetables to your diet, with a courgette porridge recipe. Via @eleanormayc]

Mix together the oats, courgette, banana and cacao powder (if using) together in a pan before adding the liquid and heating over a medium temperature. Cook until all the liquid is fully absorbed, adding more if needed. If you are using protein powder, remove the pan from the heat and stir in, adding extra milk if needed. Sweeten with maple syrup to taste, pour into a bowl and add your toppings. Flaked coconut, kiwi, berries, nut butter and squares of chocolate all taste fantastic.

Want more healthy hacks for supercharging your diet and lifestyle? Comment below if it has helped!

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