When ZAAZEE approached me to do a blog post for them, no one was more surprised than me! I’ve been on the ‘fitness/weight loss’ wagon for the last 11 years and over that time I’ve gone from hapless cook (seriously, I’ve messed up super noodles before) to someone who knows how to throw it all in the pan and make something tasty and healthy for all the family. Healthy eating is massive at the minute but over the years I think that there is so much confusion over what is actually healthy. At first we were all about low carb, because hey carbs are evil and then we went all high fat (bullet proof coffee anyone??!) and then we had that sugar is more addictive than crack so what’s the truth? Well there are pro’s and con’s with any eating plan and I think the best way to see what is best for you and your body is through trial and error.
Carbs are not evil and they don’t make us fat but they get a bad name as they usually come served with a thick creamy sauces or as delicious hunks of bread with a block of butter. The truth is we need carbs to function they are our main energy source and when we cut them out of our diet it’s no surprise that we feel lethargic and hangry (or is that just me???). Fat is delicious and it adds so much flavour to a dish but it should be ate in moderation. I prefer milk in my coffee as opposed butter and eating peanut butter straight from the jar may be delicious but if your jeans are getting tighter you may want to limit this and last but not least, sugar! Ah sugar, you taste so good and how I love you. Is it good for you, probably not but would life be good without it, again probably not.
I started my Instagram account (@zaradavey) in 2012 and have used it to document the highs and lows of my weight loss journey, there are also lots of family shots as I have two little girls (who seem to be growing so fast!) Unfortunately, last year I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumour and gained 20kg. This was a huge shock to the system as I had been used to managing my weight (successfully for over 5 years and through two pregnancies) through healthy eating and running and am now back at square one. So my account is currently focused on getting back to feeling my best thought healthy eating and exercise. As you can imagine, I’ve done all the popular diets over the years but I’ve gone back to the old school way of ‘calories in vs calories out’. Everyone is different but I guess there is no messing with science.
The key to making a successful lifestyle change is not to try and change everything at once. You know the score, you wake up on a Monday morning and decide that you are going to exercise 6 days a week, cut out wheat, dairy and gluten and plan to meditate every day. By Tuesday evening, you are stressed out have spent a small fortune in Waitrose and want to punch everyone you see! The key is to make one change at a time and once this has become a healthy habit, you add another one. Little steps will always get you to where you want to be.
The old saying ‘you can’t out work a bad diet’ is so true and they key to achieving your body goals (whatever they may be) is to clean up your diet. I am all about creating a balanced approach. I love chocolate and could happily replace all my meals with a huge chunk of dairy milk, however my waist line would not thank for me for this, so I stick to having a few squares every day. I also hate coconut oil and broccoli (can you even have a health Instagram account if you hate these???) and if I want a slice of carrot cake, I’d rather have the full fat version rather than one made of chickpeas and hemp powder. I
love looking at healthy recipes on Instagram but when you work it all out, that slice of ‘healthy’ carrot cake can still come in at a whopping 500cals with the same amount of fat and sugar as the regular version. Now, we could argue about good fats and bad fats but too much of anything (good or bad) is still not good.
I often tweak recipes because I’m a fussy eater and whatever I cook has to have lots of flavour. I love Greek food as it is packed full of herbs and spices and the meat is often melt in your mouth delicious.
Whenever I visit one of the islands (my favourite is Rhodes but Skiathos and Crete are also up there with the best), I always make sure I stock up on local herbs so I can re-create my favourite dishes back home. Plus, they are so much cheaper than back home. One of my favourite dishes to make back home is a healthy version of a Gyros (a meat kebab in a pita stuffed with salad, tzatziki and fries). I marinate thinly sliced chicken breast in Gyros herbs with one teaspoon of olive oil per chicken breast. Leave this to marinate overnight if you can in a zip-lock bag, or for at least one hour if you are short on time. Once marinated, layer the chicken on to two kebab sticks and grill or BBQ the meat until cooked. Once done, serve on a warm pitta with homemade tzatziki (fage 0% Greek yogurt, grated cucumber and garlic salt), chopped salad (I also hate tomatoes and onion, so often just serve with little gem lettuce and green peppers). I omit the fries (unless I’m on holiday and have had a few cocktails) but you could make homemade potato wedges and serve these on the side.
Making a meal from scratch is something that I love to do. It’s often cheaper than buying the ready-made version, you can control exactly what goes in to it, which if you are fussy like me is a godsend. Now my girls are getting older (9 and 7years) they often come into the kitchen with me and help cook tea. When you are a busy working mum, one pot meals are ideal as it saves on washing up and can often be left whilst you get on with something else (obviously the kids aren’t left alone in the kitchen with the hob on).
My kitchen tips
- Invest in some good quality pans, if you buy cheap you buy twice. I love Tefal pans and these are always on offer. A good pan also means that you can use less oil when cooking.
- Build up your spice collection. When we had our kitchen re-designed last year I added a pull out spice rack to the design. Herbs and spices are a great way of addling lots of flavour to a dish with minimal of calories. My go to spices are: chilli flakes (add heat to any dish), paprika (sweet and smokey and a great addition to tomato sauces), Cajun spice (pimp up your chicken breast in one go), Italian herbs (spag bol done in minutes) and Chinese five spice (perfect for stir fries).
- Tuppawear. It’s a running joke in my family that I am obsessed with tuppawear and I guess that as I have two dedicated tuppawear draws in my kitchen probably means that they are right. Tuppawear is great for meal prepping and storing left overs. When I work in the office I always take my own lunch and snacks and not only does this save money and reduce waste but it means that I can stay on track with my diet. When we have done the food shopping, me and the eldest go in to the kitchen and chop up the fruit (melons, pineapple, mango) and veg (mushrooms, peppers, carrots and celery). This means that when it comes to making a meal the prep time has already been cut in half. It also means when the kids come home from school wanting a snack there are healthy food options readily available. I also make some ‘protein yogurt’ (Greek yogurt and one scoop of protein powder, my fav is My Protein Strawberries and Cream) pots up that I can add fruit/nuts to as a healthy snack.
- Bulk Cooking. I always try and have some meals in the freezer, so if we get home late we have no excuse to dial in a takeaway. The freezer is usually stocked with chilli, spaghetti bolognaise and chicken, chick pea and spinach curry. All take minutes to re-heat and taste delicious.
- Blender. This makes life simple and I use it every time I make a sauce (I buy tinned tomatoes and blend to a smooth sauce then add whatever herbs and spices I need to turn it from bland to banging). It’s also great for making homemade banana ice cream (literally just frozen banana blended) and cottage cheese pancakes (cottage cheese, egg, oats and vanilla essence).
- Pantry. I always have a pantry stocked with pasta, rices and tins (beans of all types, tinned tomatoes). This means that I can always create a meal even if the fridge is bare!
- Liquid egg whites, great for bulking up scrambled eggs and omelettes. As I am more mindful of my calorie intake at the minute, liquid egg whites are great for creating volume for very few calories. Also very filling, although there is nothing wrong with using whole eggs. (could add an egg wrap recipe in here)
- Feta cheese, this salty delight perks up any salad and is great in homemade lamb burgers. I often add this to a salad as it tastes amazing. However, it tastes best when cooked in a dish called ‘Saganaki’. Basically is a whole block of feta, battered and deep fried. You can thank me later but this dish is definitely an occasional treat.
- Chorizo, this spicy cured Spanish sausage is just amazing! Sweet and Smokey it adds flavour to whatever you pair it with. I love it in paella or blended to make a crust for a cod fillet. (add paella recipe)
- Greek yogurt, this yogurt can be used in everything! Whether you want to make a lighter version of Eton Mess (Greek yogurt, crushed meringue and strawberries), make creamy dips (avocado, chilli flakes, garlic salt, lime juice and a dollop of yogurt) or add to your smoothie/protein shake it’s just so versatile and is a great protein hit too!
thank you so much for reading, Zara Davey xx